In the move from the old world of ‘Push’ to the new world of ‘Pull’ – see my last article How push to pull is changing your business forever, we need to stop interrupting customers with offerings that they’re not interested in. Instead we have to turn our companies and our offerings into something that does interest and inspire them. This is a huge shift which requires an understanding of customers’ needs, desires and motivations like never before. It means understanding and interpreting their emotional responses.

In this new world of ‘Pull’, you need to make and maintain relationships on an on-going basis and consistently deliver your brand promise. This means truly understanding customers as people. It requires key skills such as listening, being authentic, being empathetic, being transparent, and creating a connection. You can only do this if you have a deep understanding of emotions.

Emotional value for attracting and keeping customers

To understand your customers’ behaviours you first have to understand their emotions. Behaviours are the consequence of emotions and emotions are the consequence of thought. See our diagram.

To turn your companies or your offerings into what customers are interested in is the heart of your strategic value proposition work. Your value proposition sits at the heart: it is the repository of all those things customers actually want, explicitly and implicitly, rationally and emotionally, and will spend money on.

In business we prefer to deal with people and situations rationally because most of us haven’t been taught any other way. Just imagine a world where emotional literacy had equal place on the school curriculum with maths or chemistry. Emotional literacy is a skill that needs to be learnt like we learn how to use a spreadsheet or ride a bike.

Roger Enrico, a past CEO of Pepsico, once said: “Give me a reasonably intelligent woman or man and we can teach them the hard stuff like budgeting, planning, etc, but when it comes to leadership, it’s the soft stuff that’s hard.”

Start with yourself
As we run up to the festive season, deadlines need to be met at work and the pressure to have a happy family holiday can take many people to breaking point. After all, the emotional rollercoaster has become part and parcel of the season of goodwill! So I thought now would be a good time to write about emotions and their place in our lives and how we can start to understand and manage them better, both at work and at home.

We’re not taught about emotions at business school. We’re taught that most business decisions are rationally decided, that we can weigh up all the facts and come to a rational conclusion. This is incorrect. As you can see in the diagram, a conclusion can only be drawn from an understanding of thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Luckily, the process of how we think, how we feel emotions and how we consequently behave can be taught just like any other process. Years of working both as a clinical counsellor and as a business consultant have shown me how we can be so much more effective and happier as all round human beings by learning to process and regulate our emotions better.

I’m sharing some of my learning. One of my teachers was the great Claude Steiner who first coined the phrase ‘emotional literacy’. He says:  “Being emotionally literate means that you know what emotions you and others have, how strong they are, and what causes them. Being emotionally literate means that you know how to manage your emotions because you understand them. To be emotionally literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power and improves the quality of life for you and—most importantly—the quality of life of the people around you.”

Emotional learning takes practice and time to develop fully. To understand emotions in others you need to understand your own emotions and emotional response first, your own emotional landscape.

It may surprise you to know that there are only four core emotions. They are:

•    Joy
•    Sadness
•    Anger
•    Anxiety

However, like primary colours on a palette, these combine to form many emotional responses such as surprise, which is joy and anxiety, or disgust, which is anxiety and anger. Also, each of these core emotions has a very wide spectrum, so anger can manifest from mild irritation to outright rage and violent hostility.

To change our businesses, or anything else in the world, starts with one person. It starts with each of us. We can’t force anyone else to change but we can all change ourselves. To truly change behaviour we have to understand our own emotions and then know how to manage and process them. This is a skill that can be learned like anything else.

To develop this learning and as a Christmas gift to all of our friends, we are offering you this Emotional Awareness Questionnaire to download and try for yourselves. Please do let me know if you find this useful or if you’d like more information. I’d love to know what you think about this topic.

Do have a very happy and an emotionally positive holiday.

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Cindy Barnes is a business and psychology consultant. She is clinically trained in Transactional Analysis and uses this in her business work with companies.

Her background is in product and service innovation, business development and leadership. She is founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Futurecurve who are value solution architects and builders. Futurecurve helps companies navigate from a product ‘push’ focus to a true customer ‘pull’ focus, enabling them to out-perform their peers by delivering genuine value to customers. Customers include global corporations, governmental organisations, start-ups and not-for-profits.  Contact Cindy on Twitter @cindy_barnes

All of Futurecurve’s qualitative research understanding customers is based on Transactional Analysis and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and they have combined this approach to create their world-class approach which uncovers both what customers think, how customers feel and how and why they behave as they do. Futurecurve are the pioneers in using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis in business and in showing businesses the emotions and motivations of their customers.