If you were a fly on the wall in my Innovation and Collaboration class last semester at the Yale School of Music (as well as in my class coaching group this semester), you would hear students talking about being in the “red” or the “yellow” zone. What they are referring to is the Mood Meter, an app developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence that helps you to label, understand, regulate and track the patterns of your emotions.
The mood meter is divided into 4 quadrants based on pleasantness (high or low) and energy (high or low). Each quadrant has a range of 25 different emotions, based on the intensity of the feeling:
Blue: low energy/low pleasant that translates into feelings like sad/lonely/despondent
Green: low energy/high pleasant that translates into feelings like content/calm/serene
Yellow: high energy/high pleasant that translates into feelings like happy/energized/ ecstatic
Red: high energy/low pleasant that translates into feelings like irritated/angry/enraged
My students downloaded the app and learned how to use it, thanks to a wonderful class with guest lecturer Dr. Robin Stern, Associate Director of Yale’s Center of Emotional Intelligence. By the end of the semester, they all experienced tremendous progress in their ability to monitor themselves in challenging situations.
Moreover, effective collaboration turns on many skills that requires emotional intelligence including the ability to communicate effectively and to manage conflict. My students also found that using the mood meter became a highly useful tool in their collaborative work.
Let’s see how using the mood meter can increase your emotional intelligence and make you a better collaborator.
The Mood Meter and RULER
The Mood Meter is based on Yale’s RULER theory of emotional intelligence.
RULER stands for:
R ecognizing emotions in yourself and those around you to develop greater self-awareness, as well as a sensitivity to how your collaborators are feeling;
U nderstanding what is the cause of those emotions so that you can develop strategies for managing your feelings;
L abeling the emotion accurately so that you can communicate more effectively with others;
E xpressing the emotion in the right way with the right person at the right time to the right degree in order to contain potentially charged situations; and
R egulating the emotion effectively in order to manage stress and reach better outcomes.
RULER is based on the notion that emotions matter and that emotional intelligence is a teachable skill. The mood meter is one tool for accelerating the learning process.
For starters, the mood meter enables you to track how you are feeling and expand your emotional vocabulary because each emotion comes along with a definition (i.e., Are you frustrated, upset, angry or furious?). As Dr. Stern explained, you need to “name it to tame it” because once you can accurately label how you are feeling, you can then select the appropriate strategy to deal with that emotion. In fact, the mood meter provides a range of strategies for managing your stressful emotions to help you shift to a more “pleasant” quadrant.
Another useful feature of the app is that it generates a cumulative report of your emotions so that you can observe your behavior patterns and then select the best strategy for managing your emotions in different situations.
Using the Mood Meter to Enhance Collaboration
My students embraced the mood meter with gusto, finding that it enhanced their ability to manage stress, handle conflict, communicate more effectively and more persuasively, and come up with more productive results in their group collaborations. Here are some ways that the mood meter helped my students to improve their emotional intelligence and become more effective collaborators.
Emotional intelligence enables you to pick up on subtle clues about the people with whom you are dealing. The mood meter’s labeling function helps you to define your own emotions with greater precision and then pick up on the precise emotions of those around you. As one student observed:
“The idea that different people have different words for their emotions, and that some people are better or worse than others at putting a specific word to their emotions has helped me empathize in ways I didn’t think I was capable of. I believe this empathy is what benefits us most in communicating, conflict management, and persuasion. Understanding how someone else is feeling is incredibly important to communication of all forms, and knowing yourself and having empathy for yourself in your emotions is the first way of doing that.”
Moreover, the mood meter facilitates the ability to express one’s emotions. This helped one student who grew up thinking that in order to appear strong and independent, you should keep your feelings to yourself. However, by using the mood meter, she learned that the true meaning of being strong was the ability to express her emotions and relate more effectively to others.
Another important aspect of emotional intelligence is the art of persuasion which often came up in the collaborative projects when students were faced with negotiating and persuading others to adopt their point of view. By understanding the needs of your fellow collaborators and reading their emotions, you can tailor your arguments to the needs of your listeners. Moreover, while presenting your arguments, you can adjust the presentation according to reactions from the listeners based on their facial expression body language. The presenter might also harness emotional intelligence to tell an inspiring anecdote or a good joke that connects with the audience.
Here again, the mood meter and RULER were helpful tools. As one student found, it enabled her to:
“ask smarter questions, show empathy towards others, draw out the emotional response from the target audience during presentations and influencing change both within or outside of an organization. It helps gain trust from others, which is a very necessary and valuable aspect when collaborating with others. “
Emotional intelligence is critical in conflict management because it helps all parties regulate their emotions in order to keep discussions respectful and productive. In fact, students reported that after learning how to manage conflict effectively and address their conflicts with their fellow collaborators, their relationships within the collaborative groups were even stronger.
Thanks to the mood meter’s labeling function, students were able to articulate the subtle differences between similar emotions and regulate their emotions in challenging situations. In the words of one of our students:
“The [mood meter] has widened my vocabulary for moods and helped me track and then recognize specific triggers. By identifying my triggers for undesirable emotions, I can better prepare for the situations in which they occur.”
In addition, by using the mood meter and going through the RULER method, students were able to take a step back in order to prevent saying something that they might later regret.
For example, several students noted that in the course of their collaborative projects, they became frustrated (a red quadrant emotion defined in the mood meter as “feeling negative and discouraged because you are blocked from doing something”) by a perceived lack of cooperation from their fellow collaborators which they felt threatened to derail the projects. Rather than lash out in the moment, the students found that it was more useful to step back, try to understand the other person’s point of view, and think through different strategies for discussing the issues in conflict in order to come up with a mutually satisfactory solution.
Our students also found that the mood meter’s report function enabled them to identify situations that triggered strong emotions. As a result, students were able to work on managing challenging situations that could lead to trouble if students acted out on their emotions. Moreover, since the mood meter also identified areas that generated strong positive emotions, students used that information both to replicate positive situations and to use effective strategies to help carry them through and manage the more difficult times.
The mood meter and the RULER method can help you to become a more effective collaborator by enhancing your ability to recognize, understand, label and regulate the strong emotions that inevitably crop up when dealing with others. So treat yourself to the app and see how it can help you in your artistic collaborations!