Originally published by Daniel Goleman on LinkedIn: Master Your Emotional Terrain

What Makes You Angry?

For many, being put down by an authority figure causes our blood to boil. For others, delays that ruin our efficiency are frustrating. The calmest person can become enraged by a wrongful accusation. All sorts of life situations, big and small, might trigger anger.

How well do you understand your own particular "hot buttons" - situations which trigger specific feelings?

To be emotionally intelligent, we need to understand what our emotions look like in action and what provokes each feeling.

Thanks to the work of my friend, Paul Ekman, one of the world's top authorities on emotions, we have the Atlas of Emotions to help enhance our emotional intelligence. The Atlas was inspired by conversations between the Dalai Lama and Dr. Ekman about the science of emotions.

The Atlas of Emotions explains: "The Dalai Lama asked Paul Ekman to create a map of the emotions, hoping that such a map would enable people to have more constructive emotional experiences. When we wanted to get to the new world, he said, we needed a map to get there. If we want to get to a calm state of mind, we need a map of the emotion. He asked Ekman to base the emotional map on the scientific consensus about what emotions are. With the help of Stamen Design and Paul's daughter, Dr. Eve Ekman, this tool was created to be a visual journey through the world of emotions."

How Does the Atlas Work?

We know that emotions influence our lives and shape what we say and do - we just don't always notice this in time to avoid doing or saying something we regret later. The Atlas builds our awareness of emotions, giving us the potential to have some choice in what we feel and how we act.

Like all atlases, the Atlas of Emotions includes maps that chart a landscape. Through the Atlas we can explore that terrain, see where emotions come from, and the effects they can have.

For each of five universal emotions - anger, enjoyment, disgust, sadness, and fear - the Atlas invites us to investigate:

  • Continents, showing how emotions vary in strength and intensity
  • States, illustrating variations on how each emotion is felt
  • Unconscious actions that stem from emotional states
  • Triggers for a given emotion
  • Moods, longer-lasting cousins of emotions
  • Calm, the balanced frame of mind

For in-depth exploration, the Annex section shares more about emotions research, including a timeline explaining how emotional episodes unfold.

Why the Atlas Matters

Knowing what the Atlas teaches can help with emotional self-awareness, emotional self-management, empathy, and social skill -- the whole array of emotional intelligence. Many of us are familiar with one or two emotions, but lack awareness of others. The Atlas gives a sound overview of all the major emotions, how they work, and what the antidotes for the less helpful ones -- like anger -- might be.

We encounter all these emotions at work, in ourselves or others. The Atlas can help us understand - and manage - what's happening in the emotional landscape around them. This emotional radar matters especially for leaders.

Dr. Ekman has pulled together what scientists have found in their research and offered it up in a user-friendly format. Give it a try.