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Understanding Emotions

Updated: Sep 22, 2022


Every day and moment of our lives begins and ends with emotions. We wake up and are excited for the day, then we are satisfied with breakfast and feel refreshed after a shower. We are happy when on a trip and upset when we get scolded by our bosses. We are tired when we come back home and nostalgic when we look at photos in our gallery one last time before we head to sleep. Emotions are thus all around us and understanding them becomes a necessary part of our lives.

Emotions are a part of human nature and allow us to know how to react to different situations in different yet appropriate ways.

From the moment we are born, we display emotions. Babies display basic emotions like happiness, sadness, excitement and a feeling of hunger/thirst using their bodily movements and sounds. However, they don’t have the ability yet to label or identify these emotions or say that they feel a certain type of way.

However, as we grow older, we develop an understanding of the emotions we are experiencing. With time and experience, we get better at identifying how we are feeling at a given moment and why. This is a very important life skill called “emotional awareness”.

The process of understanding emotions can be divided into four parts:

  1. Intrapersonal understanding of emotions

  2. Interpersonal understanding of emotions

  3. Attuning emotions to existing social norms

  4. Checking for Cultural Compatibility

A thorough understanding of all these processes in total gives us a complete idea of emotions in our lives as a whole.


Although we as social beings are always interacting with people and external circumstances, we spend most of our lives with ourselves, trying to figure out our own emotional needs and expressions. This process of effectively understanding one’s own emotions is called INTRAPERSONAL EMOTIONAL SKILLS. While most of us are busy polishing our interpersonal skills as of today, we are barely aware of the larger impact we are losing on due to lack of intrapersonal skills.

People with a strong intrapersonal emotional understanding find it easier to:

  1. Manage and Regulate their emotions

  2. Hold Jobs and respond to People’s Needs

  3. Face Life Challenges Head on

Unlike interpersonal skills, these skills have a lesser direct impact on our interaction with others but affect us immensely in the long run. Unlike the attributes like height or weight that you are already born with, interpersonal emotional intelligence is something you can cultivate and get better at every day of your life.

Following are few ways in which a person’s intrapersonal emotional understanding can be enhanced:

  1. Keeping a day-to-day journal of your emotions or a mood tracker can help understand emotions better and even identify what triggers your negative emotions.

  2. Introspection is another classic way to understand your emotions and figuring out why you feel the way you do.

  3. Meditating or just sitting and accepting your emotions by way of contemplation is an effective self-improvement activity. Most of the time, negative emotions cause an issue within us and lead to larger disorders because we suppress them and cause them to pile up.

  4. Taking your time to respond to your emotions instead of reacting to them is a necessary step everyone should take towards better emotional health.

  5. Practicing positive self-talk at least for a few minutes per day. Often, the standards we set for ourselves emotionally are tougher than the ones we have for others. Thus, being a little bit kinder to ourselves can go a long way in improving not only our own emotional health but in creating a much safer space for others to interact with as well.


According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence has five key components, namely self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The last two of the above stated elements form what is known as interpersonal emotional intelligence.

These skills are all very useful in our human interactions in both personal and professional areas of our lives. Whether it is attending business meetings or going on a romantic date, understanding emotional cues coming from other people is a very crucial part that decides the consequences for us.

People who are able to understand and respond to others’ emotions better not only are valued more as humans but also succeed a great deal more in their professional lives. Especially in a huge society like India where interacting with people is almost a full-time job with no days off, interpersonal communication skills are of utmost importance.

Following are some essential interpersonal emotional skills and how they are valid to our regular functioning:

  1. EMPATHY - Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding how they feel and what they are going through. Having empathy makes a person a better listener and enables effective communication.

  2. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT - Conflicts arise when there is a difference or clash in the needs of people. Effective conflict management can help you assess and prioritize needs and balance these needs in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved.

  3. COMMUNICATION - Interpersonal communication is also a part of understanding and responding to people’s emotions. Getting your own ideas through, getting a grasp of others’ ideas and using verbal and non-verbal cues to enhance interpersonal communication improves interactions ten-fold.

  4. LEADERSHIP - Leadership is a quality that only be built on effective interpersonal understanding. A leader is always looked up to as a role-model who recognizes the emotional needs of his team and responds to them in an effective manner.

Improving interpersonal emotional understanding thus improves a person’s social life as a whole.


Human beings today are part of a well-formed society. Each of us identify ourselves with multiple social identities and want to stay connected as a “part” of the said societies. It is therefore important to attune our emotions to the social norms that largely affect our behavior and functioning in our day-to-day lives.

Social Norms are traditionally defined as a set of rules or regulations that are understood and agreed upon by the members of a group, and that guide or constrain behaviors of these group members without the written law. In a country like India and in other Asian societies, social norms can be pretty strict and binding. For example, divorce and multiple marriages are considered a taboo in the East and South-East Asian cultures which leads to a lot of married couples staying together “for the sake of the society” even when they have fallen out of love.

Therefore, merely understanding our own and people’s emotions is not enough. We need to screen these emotions through the standard of social norms and expectations before we decide to act on them. When your boss is yelling at you for not finishing a task, saying sorry and exiting the room might be a normal thing to do as per European cultures but the same thing would be unappreciated in the Indian social context. Society forms a blueprint of the ways in which emotions are to be attended to, thus becoming a major affecting factor in the way we understand emotions.


According to Darren Menabney, a writer for Forbes Careers Magazine, “ succeed globally, we need Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Intelligence.”

In today’s time, we exist in a global world. Most jobs and businesses today require an understanding of not only people’s emotional needs but also their cultural needs. Having a high EQ isn’t enough when working with a diverse population. Almost as many as 40% of corporate assignments are deemed as failures due to cross-cultural challenges.

Cultural beliefs and systems are a major factor affecting emotions. For example, being sad or crying your heart out is considered to be a sign of weakness in the Indian culture.

Thus, understanding emotions within a cultural context is the ideal way to work in a global world.


Understanding of emotions on both, the inter and the intrapersonal level is a thing of importance. Human beings can’t exist without emotions in any social setting, and thus emotional awareness becomes an indispensable life skill for each one of us.


Hope you found this article helpful. If you or your organization is interested to learn more about such attributes and behavioral skills at the workplace, feel free to get in touch with us at RGB Training Services!

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