Naming Your Emotion

Our ability to understand others’ emotions depends upon our ability to understand our own emotions. When an interaction goes badly, we often respond with emotion rather than the deliberate selection of behavior. This is an outcome of the power of emotion relationships.


This exercise explores an interaction that created strong emotion. At first, use the questions below to explore an interaction that occurred in the past. Once you are comfortable with this process, you can perform this exercise immediately after a confrontational or difficult interaction.


  • What emotion did you feel immediately?

  • How did it change? What do you feel now?

  • What do you believe the other person felt immediately? Now?

  • What motivations or assumptions did you assign to the other person? What motivations or assumptions do you imagine he or she assigned to you?

  • How does this interaction relate to previous interactions? Is there consistency, or is this different?

  • Were you making decisions based on the group’s shared vision or your individual vision? What about the other person?


Imagine a better interaction, one that would have benefited the group.


  • What would a productive version of this interaction have looked like?

  • What behaviors would have been performed by each participant?

  • What outcome would the productive interaction have produced?

  • What task or tasks need to be completed related to this interaction?

  • Are your emotions facilitating or hindering the performance of these tasks?

  • What is the most useful behavior you can do to benefit the group?

  • What can you do to address your emotions or the other person’s emotions? What can you say or do to clarify your motivation and intent?