Is Your Glass Half-full? The Difference Between Moods and Emotions.

Emotions versus mood…. What’s the difference anyway? They are easy distinctions to mix up. Wikipedia describes emotion as “a physiological state resulting from a reaction to a particular event”, and mood as “a relatively long-lasting emotional state not triggered by a particular event”. Common emotions are happiness, fear, disappointment, love. I consider moods to be assessments about the future based on our past experiences. In a very basic way, there are open, productive moods and closed, unproductive moods which operate in the background for each of us. A common analogy is whether you are a glass half full, or glass half empty person.

There are many moods, but there are four basic ones I want to highlight; resentment, resignation, peace or acceptance, and ambition. I see these in myself and my co-workers regularly. I have characterized each one to help you recognize them.

Resentment – People in a mood of resentment tend to say things like “I am not getting what I deserve.” Complaining about the past, eye rolling, and using sarcasm are also clues. The Evil Queen in Snow White and Archie Bunker are stereotypes of people living in resentment.

Resignation – When in a mood of resignation you might say “Nothing I do will make a difference.” Blank or downcast expressions, being unresponsive and not asking questions can be clues to resignation. Eyore from Winnie the Pooh comes to mind.

Peace or Acceptance – A key phrase may be “Life is good.” The mood of acceptance shows up as a soft smile, open body language, and open-ended questions. I think of the Dali Lama here.

Ambition – People in a mood of ambition may say “I/we can do anything we strive to do.” They are wide-eyed, focused and ask direct questions. Think Steve Jobs or Lance Armstrong.

Moods, especially negative ones, are highly contagious. If you are always throwing up roadblocks, which could be resignation, your team runs the high probability of floundering. When a leader approaches challenges from a mood of ambition with a “can do” attitude, positive morale is a result. We have all worked on projects we can’t wait to end. If you are on one of those now, give some consideration to the mood you bring to your team.

There are some specific steps you can take to assess and navigate your mood.

Step 1
Identify the assessment you have about the future that is relevant to what is going on.
Step 2
Try to ground that assessment. Think through the reasons you have for feeling the way you do. What evidence comes to mind? Why do you care about it?
Step 3
If your assessment was ungrounded or not serving you well, form a new assessment. Speculate about new, more productive actions you could take.
Step 4
Resolve to shift out of a unproductive mood and take action. What new declaration can you make? Make it public.

We each need to take a look at the mood we bring to our team(s). We are all responsible to bring a mood that is productive to the task at hand.

In the end, each of us takes a basic stance … really making a declaration about who we are. We either are a person who sees life happen to us and we react to those circumstances or as something that we are inventing. Either way the choice is ours to make.



2 thoughts on “Is Your Glass Half-full? The Difference Between Moods and Emotions.

  1. Very insightful article, Paulette. I’ve never connected my mood with an assessment of the future. I think you’re spot on! Also, thanks for reminding us we have a choice to make with regards to the mood we’re in.

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