Moods and Emotions

By Randy Chittum, Ph.D.

We have made much progress in understanding how emotions predispose us to behaviors, and even success. We have spent less time talking about moods, an important corollary. The best way I’ve heard the distinction expressed is that you can think of moods as the climate and emotions as the weather.

Climate (and moods) are reasonably prevalent and provide a long-term context for understanding, and even prediction. You generally know what to expect if you visit a tropical climate as opposed to a desert climate. Emotions, on the other hand, are less prevalent and more susceptible to change AND are heavily influenced by mood. This is also true in the weather analogy – the weather is influenced by the climate.

Language is important. In the same way that emotions do not equal “emotional,” mood is not the same as “moody.”

While emotions may be a response to a particular set of circumstances and may change rapidly from one circumstance to another – mood is much less likely to change over long periods of time. Some have argued that we have moods that stay with us a lifetime. My belief is that moods do change, though it may be years in the making, and may require significant desire and “internal” work.

Organization cultures (and sub-cultures) have moods. Julio Olalla is a significant figure in the world of linguistics, coaching, and organizations. He has proposed four primary moods.

  1. A person or organization in this mood rejects or opposes facts, which are primarily based in the past (Resentment may show up as bitterness).
  2. A person or organization living in resignation rejects possibilities, which are primarily based in the future (Resignation may show up as “giving up”).
  3. Peace/Acceptance. A person or organization living in peace accepts the past – not just acknowledges it, but truly embraces and accepts it in its entirety, including mistakes and regrets (Acceptance may show up as centered, comfortable in “one’s own skin”).
  4. A person or organization living in ambition accepts and embraces possibilities (Ambition may show up as hopeful).

Can you imagine how someone living in a mood of ambition will approach life differently from someone living in resignation?

Can you assess your own dominant mood? If so, what strategies have you learned to help you stay effective? (Any mood in its extreme is likely to create barriers to effectiveness.)

How about others? Do you notice what others have as their dominant mood? How do you lead someone whose mood is resentful, or resigned?

Spend some time over the next few weeks noticing your prevalent moods. Do they change by circumstance, or as expected, are they somewhat more permanent? While we often wish to change what is around us, the big move may be changing that which is within us.