Emotional Styles: What's Yours?

Who I am
Robert Maurer


Emotional Styles: What's Yours?

The emotional response to significant life events varies in each of us. Professor of psychology and psychiatry Richard Davidson has identified six ways of reacting and coping with situations, which we will describe in detail in this article.

Last update: June 19, 2022

The book The Emotional Life of the Brain, written by Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, co-authored with scientific writer Sharon Begley, summarizes nearly forty years of research on the neural basis of emotions. The authors state that prior to a significant event, each person reacts differently based on six emotional styles.

According to Davidson and Begley, emotional styles are the constant way of responding to life experiences. Each of them identifies a specific brain and neuronal activity that can be measured with objective laboratory methods. However, each of us can recognize our own dominant style. We invite you to find out how.

6 emotional styles

Davidson and Begley have established six emotional styles, each with precise levels of evaluation. Knowing them will help you understand yourself and others.

1. Resilient style

Determine the degree of resilience towards adversity. The two extremes of this style are: fast recovery vs slow recovery. If you usually accept a difficult situation in a short time and move on with moderate ease, your emotional style is fast-catching.

If, on the other hand, you are paralyzed, fearful or have difficulty moving forward, then present a lower response to adversity.

2. Panoramic style

It depends on degree of optimism with which daily events are interpreted. In this case, the extremes are pessimistic versus optimistic.

In general, people who exhibit greater connections between the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens (pleasure center) have a more positive outlook on life. Likewise, they usually feature great motivation, increased energy, creativity, determination, and well-being.

3. Intuitive style

It concerns how good you are at interpreting the non-verbal emotional cues of others. At the extremes there would be those who have difficulty identifying the emotional state of others and those who easily recognize the emotions and thoughts of those around them. In the second case, one is endowed with empathy and compassion.

4. Self-aware style

It depends on the degree of awareness of one's emotional states. The extremes are made up of those who easily detect the messages of their body compared to those who cannot identify the sensations experienced.

5. Emotional styles: sensitive

Who has a sensitive emotional style is capable of perceiving the environment and adapting emotional responses to circumstances. A highly sensitive style allows for emotional responses based on context.

For example, if a sad colleague comes to tell us that a family member has passed away, the appropriate response is to show pain and compassion. Instead, an insensitive style would be acting like we don't care or telling jokes to cheer him up.

6. Focused style

It consists of the ability to focus on a certain task. There are people who are easily distracted and others who remain very focused on their work.

If you enjoy high concentration, you are mentally in tune with the activity you are dedicated to, so in rare cases it is distracted. However, it must be taken into account that excessive concentration inhibits creativity, which is why moments of distraction are necessary.

How to identify emotional styles

We all feature some degree of each style presented in this article. In other words, everyone has a degree of resilience, optimism, social intuition, self-awareness, context sensitivity and focus.

The most accentuated dimension indicates the dominant emotional style. To detect it, you have to write down the six types and rank them from 1 to 5, where 1 represents "low development" and 5 "successful style".

This will give you an idea of ​​your emotional profile. We can also ask someone we trust to evaluate our emotional styles. In this way, we will get another perspective on our emotional life.

Can we change our emotional style?

One of the central principles in Davidson's thesis is the concept of neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to change according to circumstances.

He argues that a person's emotional style can change through experience, through a conscious effort. Finally, he says that life can get better if you work on emotional styles.

When is it useful to change your emotional style?

It is good to know that no emotional style is better than another and that there is no ideal one, as it is highly subjective. Not all of them should be developed and promoted, only those that have a significant impact about relationships and working life.

For example, there are people whose poor concentration does not affect them at all, because their creative ability and sensitivity to circumstances make them full and happy. So, before working on an emotional style, ask yourself: what hurts or makes me suffer?

Finally, if you want to develop a specific emotional style, Davidson proposes meditation. Said author is famous for having conducted a study on a small number of Buddhist monks in which he found significant differences in brain activity and structure. This suggests the benefits of this mental practice.

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