The Decida Emotion Wheel TM® is helpful, because our brain needs words and language to be able to think through and organise new ideas. Saying you’re furious is OK, but knowing that it is the most extreme form of anger helps us think about fury in a new way. Language and intensity levels work together to become a conceptual framework that allows us to better understand and manage emotion.

It’s also helpful when we have to use words to better communicate with each other about how we are feeling. Saying you’re happy is good, but how happy? Being able to say “peaceful” is more descriptive and better articulates your emotional state to others.

Similarly, apprehensive intuitively suggests low level anxiety, frustrated medium level anger, and disappointed only a little bit sad.

Often when we don’t want to get into a big conversation about how we’re feeling, we say:

“fine” or “good”.

It’s kind of code for, “I have no interest in telling you how I feel” or “I have no idea, please don’t make me think about it – I’ve got too much to do”. This is learnt behaviour because often when we do say how we are feeling, we simply use the high level emotional descriptors (happy, sad, angry, anxious, scared or excited), making people feel like they need to ask further questions to make sure we’re okay on account of these high level emotional descriptions failing to indicate how intense you are feeling that particular emotion. If you don’t indicate intensity, people will usually assume a more extreme feeling than you’re actually experiencing. Therefore, to communicate a feeling without prompting an unwanted inquisition, use words that better articulate feeling and intensity.

Dialling It Up and Down

It’s important to note that somewhere in the third level of each emotion (hopeless, irritated, cheerful, worried, energetic and threatened) we seem to lose the ability to have influence over our emotions, and they completely take control of our thoughts and actions. Our rational, conscious brain checks out, and the more intense emotions run the show for a while. This can be helpful when needing to escape from a lion, but not as useful or helpful in today’s society.

The other handy thing about the Decida Emotion WheelTM®, is that we can start talking about “dialling it up and down”. This helps when managing emotion in ourselves and others, and is the starting point to build empathy with how others are feeling.

We can use the idea of emotional intensity to help us move up and down the scale as necessary. All high intense emotions mean that you’re not really doing any conscious thinking anymore. Emotion has flooded your brain and your rational self has checked out. Simply knowing that you can ‘dial it back’ from overwhelmed to apprehensive helps acknowledge your emotion, articulate it, and stay more in control of your thoughts and actions.

To help others dial it back, choosing a less intense emotion to feel with them is a key to having empathy and building rapport. If someone is experiencing anxiety at an intensity level of panic or overwhelm, choose to be consciously concerned with them about the source of their anxiety. They’ll then likely feel safe enough to dial it back to apprehensive, which is an intensity level that is much easier to manage. When we feel like we’ve been heard and understood, our emotions naturally become less intense. The key is being able to identify what emotion they are experiencing, and what it is exactly they are being emotional about (hint: it’s not always what they say it is at first). This is empathy in action.