Reading for Leading #24: A wheel for how you feel

A wheel for how you feel

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

Do you ever struggle to pinpoint exactly what emotion you’re feeling at work? Maybe something that’s happened in a meeting has you feeling a little off, but you can’t put your finger on why. Or maybe a comment in your online community has provoked a reaction in others that you can’t quite explain.

A wheel for how you feel…Plutchik’s 8 core emotions are listed in the 2nd wheel.
Image credit: Machine Elf 1735 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Plutchik#/media/File:Plutchik-wheel.svg

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions describes eight primary emotions, which are grouped into opposites: sadness and joy, trust and disgust, fear and anger and surprise and anticipation. Each arm of the wheel goes from the low intensity form of the emotion at the outside edge of the wheel into the high intensity form in the centre – so acceptance becomes trust and then admiration.

Primary emotions can also be combined to create additional emotional combinations e.g. joy and trust result in love.

In addition to visualising the wheel in 2D, it can also be folded up into a 3D cone, which can help with visualising the inter-relationship and intensities of the emotions.

Using the wheel

  1. You first might try to identify the emotion you’re feeling on the wheel – is it a single primary emotion or a combination of primary emotions? e.g. if you’re feeling aggressive that would indicate a combination of anger about something, combined with an anticipation of something to come.
  2. You can also use the wheel to explore the intensity of the emotion that you’re feeling and how it might evolve e.g. maybe you’re feeling apprehensive about an approaching deadline and if you don’t address what’s causing the apprehension then it may escalate into fear and then possibly terror.
  3. Finally, you might explore the opposite emotion on the wheel to the one you’re feeling to see if that revealing anything e.g. if you’re feeling angry, is there something fearful in the situation that you haven’t acknowledged? Or if you’re feeling disgusted by someone’s behaviour, is trust a theme in some way such as feeling betrayed?

Further reading

  • This article is an interesting look at the three elements of the wheel that might be emphasised in web design to encourage engagement.
  • The colour palette for emotional design mentioned in this article adds some more depth about how this wheel could be used in product design.
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