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Emotional thinking sits opposite informational thinking. Experience colors emotional thinking. Attitudes and assumptions also color emotional thinking.

Yet, rarely do we venture to share our emotional thinking with others. The fear of attack and ridicule for even having emotional thoughts paralyzes many of even the greatest thinkers. None of us wants to be the fool.

However, if emotional thoughts are not laid on the exploratory table, they simply lie in wait inside each of us. The thoughts, if unexpressed, skew the thinking of the entire group. They hide in dark corners of our beings. They explode unexpectedly if suppressed.

STARTING POINT

If you have not already identified the focus of your thinking — an issue, a problem, an idea, a challenge, a need, a suggestion, an opportunity, — pick one. Also, if you have trouble knowing what emotions are available to you, conduct a search on “list of emotions.” I know that every time I do this search, I find I have added some new emotions to my personal list.

In your search, you will encounter “Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions” which identifies basic emotions and their basic opposites. You will also see advanced emotions which are combinations of basic emotions. Then, you will see the advanced opposites.

You may also encounter Parrot’s tree of emotions (changingminds.org). Parrot categorizes the emotions into primary, secondary, and tertiary. You may also encounter Lobjan (an artificial language) emotions, a list which explores degrees of emotions.

The list includes simple emotions, complex emotions, and pure emotions. If you are really a person who deals with true emotional subtleties, explore the propositional attitudes and the complex propositional attitudes.

At this point, you have identified your thinking focus and you have a list of emotions that works for you. Now, the fun-work begins. Watch for what you learn about yourself. Please, share what you learn with others.

WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS 

Using your thinking focus, you will now disassemble your focus into its components.

Questions you ask will guide you toward your best emotional thinking.

What aspects of achievement compose my choice? What are the parts of the mission statement? What are the parts of the value statements? Who are the customers that are involved? What competencies are needed for success? Let your list evolve. Add to it whenever something new occurs to you.

DEALING WITH PEOPLE 

As you identify the components, you want the ones to surface about which you have emotional thoughts, especially strong emotional thoughts.

In my world, people are first with me. Who might I need to deal with in achieving success? What feelings do I have about each of these people, even if the feelings are only intuitive? After I assess my feelings about the people, I move on to competencies?

However, competencies connect with people. Therefore, I ask a two-pronged emotional-thinking question. Whose skill with which competency concerns me emotionally?

DEALING WITH EVERYTHING ELSE

Finally, I deal with everything other than people. Here, I start with the vision of the future. I list everything I can think about which I have emotional feelings, regardless of the intensity of those feelings.

I dump everything onto my emotional-thinking pad. Here I want to dig as deeply as possible so I can uncover any emotion that may be hiding in the background.

MOVING INTO THE FUTURE

Then, as a project materializes, I return repeatedly to check for any changes in my emotional thinking. For those that go unresolved at any point, I need to deal with them, especially if the emotions arise from intuition, hunches, gut feelings, or even opinions.

For those that deal with long-term satisfaction and success, they must be resolved or the project is in jeopardy. In all, I must resist the temptation to justify or explain my emotions. I need only to be honest with myself. This personal honesty is the first step toward being emotionally honest with others.

Emotional thinking is the most un-neutral of all the thinking de Bono identifies. For this thinking, because of its fire and passion, de Bono assigns Red Hat status. As the Red Hat sits more and more comfortably on your head, share your learning and understanding with others. Emotions, in the open, build greater trust.

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