When you read this there will be a new World cup holder (Germany) and the memory of Brazil’s disastrous defeat by Germany in the World cup will have faded somewhat – it could be a painful memory or a happy memory depending on which team you support.
Germany beat Argentina in the final. There is no love lost between Argentina and Brazil, two countries that sit next to each other, but differ in almost every other way. For Argentina to beat Germany, the conquerors of Brazil, would have been intolerable for Brazilians. On the principle that ‘an enemy of my enemy is my friend’ most Brazilians supported Germany. All of which provides proof of what Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet (Act two, Scene two), ‘…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…’ Shakespeare knew all about reframing 400 years ago. And the key to whether thinking makes it good or bad are the values that the person holds, what is important to them. That does not mean to say we do not feel our emotions keenly and they matter to us, there was no doubting the joy of the Germans and the desolation of the Brazilians. Andrea and I felt bad too at Brazil’s defeat, Andrea is Brazilian, and I lived in Brazil for ten years and I felt very sad for the players for the spectators and for the country. We felt their pain. And we also felt the elation of the German supporters, but we empathised more with the pain of the Brazilian supporters.
One thing we took from this was the fluidity of emotions, how strong they are when they are flowing and how that same energy can turn when something important changes. Brazil have been buoyed up by the crowds, the euphoria, the national pride and they did well up to the semi finals. Having the crowds cheer for you is incredible, the impact of thousands of people cheering made them mega rock stars. And it puts tremendous pressure too, the weight of expectation is very heavy. When things are going well, this emotion keeps you going gives you energy, inspires you to greater heights. If it is not going well, then the weight of expectations, and the nightmares all come to the fore. Once that happens, then it is more difficult to think and so more difficult to act well. This was very clear in the Germany Brazil match.
Emotions are reinforcing, when everything is going well, it is easy to feel good and the good feeling makes everything easier which leads to good results which leads to more good feeling, which leads to more good results etc. When things go badly, the virtuous circle turns into a vicious circle and the worse things get, the worse we perform. The great test of emotional competency is first of all to ride the positive emotions without letting them make you foolhardy, and when things are not going well, to be able to stop the rot bring in your cognitive brain to lift your shoulders and start the next minute as if it was fresh and the score line was level. Easy to say, not so easy to do. Emotions spill over into all areas – politics and economics. Successful world cup and Olympic Games hosting gives a big boost to the country from tourism and trade.
The result of the World Cup in Brazil and how people perceive it could decide the fate of the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in the presidential elections that will happen later this year.
Emotions have what is called a refractory period – immediately after we experience an emotion, we tend to interpret everything influenced by that emotion. When we experience fear, we are on the lookout for any kind of threat. When we are angry, we can take anything as an insult. When we are sad, the bad and sad things about life leap from background to foreground.
All this is important to remember when we come to help our clients with their emotions. While we would like to think that our decisions are make carefully logically and intellectually, the truth is that most of our decisions are made based on emotion, in many cases the intellect is simply the press agent for the emotional brain, finding good reasons for our decision rather than actually shaping it very much. Coaching can and will help clients know their emotions better, and knowing them, be able to manage them better. Emotional intelligence is not just about managing other people’s emotions, but being aware of your own and using their power to help you.
Coaching can seem to be a very cognitive process, but we always need to be aware of the underground streams that flow beneath the cognitive exterior, and help the client direct the flow.