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Seven Universal Emotions


Emotional Intelligence (EQ/EI) is awareness of your own emotions and those of other people (social awareness), and the ability to use the emotional information to manage self and others effectively.  Studies have found that the greater the EQ, the higher the organization can expect to have exemplary leadership performance.

In the 1970’s, through research on remote tribes of people in Papua, New Guinea, American psychologist Paul Ekman found there to be seven emotions which can be universally recognized.  He discovered this by showing pictures to the Guineans, who had never had exposure to any form of media and were geographically isolated; therefore, they could not have learned the meaning of expressions from other groups.  Ekman’s work was influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory, which was expressed a hundred years earlier, that emotions are biologically determined.


Seven Emotions

  1. Anger
  2. Disgust
  3. Fear
  4. Happiness
  5. Sadness
  6. Surprise
  7. Contempt

Though emotional expression is universal, emotional triggers vary by individual and culture, and “scripts” from the past can affect their intensity.  Ekman’s research proved that emotional triggers create new pathways in the brain.  In terms of controlling emotions, the objective is not to turn them off; rather, it would be effective to develop the habit of attentiveness (i.e. mindfulness), and learn ways to cool our emotional triggers in order to avoid destructive emotional episodes.

So, let’s describe and show you what each emotion looks like…

Anger: Brows down and together, Lips narrowed and pressed, Eyes glare

Di Blasio

NYC Mayor Di Blasio


Disgust: Upper lip is raised, Nose bridge is wrinkled, Cheeks raised


Sarah Palin, Tyra Banks


Fear: Brows raised and pulled together, Upper eyelids raised, Lower eyelids tensed, Mouth opened slightly and horizontally – stretched back towards ears

Agassi9-11_panic 1

Andre Agassi, 9/11 witness


Happiness: Eyelids narrowed, Crow’s feet wrinkles, Cheeks pushed up, Lip corners raised


Hillary Clinton, Marissa Mayer


Sadness: Upper eyelids drooped, Lip corners pulled down slightly


Mitt Romney, Mark Sanford

Surprise: Brows arched, Eyes widened, Jaw drops slightly


Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates


Contempt: Lip corner tightened and raised on one side of the mouth.

Joe Biden, George W. Bush, Simon Cowell, OJ Simpson


So, is she happy?


Mona Lisa

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, a complete Ekman fan, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit

© Rossina Gil, 2015


Charles Darwin. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Paul Ekman. Emotions Revealed.


Johari Window


One way to examine our interpersonal communication and relationships is with the Johari Window. The Johari Window is a cognitive psychological tool developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. It is exemplified much like window panes connected with four intersecting quadrants.

Any data that moves from the Blind Spot &/or Mystery (i.e. Unknown to Self) windows into your Open &/or Hidden (i.e. Known to Self) windows would indicate increased self-knowledge – or personal growth. That information makes those window panes larger, which is the goal for personal and professional growth.  Building self-awareness is the No. 1 skill for improving your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). EQ is at the heart of cultivating relationships; business is relationships.


Four Panes

The Open window is what is known by others and what you know about yourself. This is what you are willing to share with others. Examples could be information you disclose in a bio.

The Hidden window is what is not known by others, yet what you know about yourself. This is what you are consciously and deliberately trying to hide from others. Examples include relationships, habits, the past, prejudices, etc. Self-disclosure decreases the size of the Hidden window and increases the size of the Open window. This can result in improved interpersonal relationships because the vulnerability you share often creates perception that you are real/human.  Demonstrate that you’ve faced adversity and have overcome it, or that you continue to champion the challenge.  The more authentic you are with others in disclosing your whole self, the more likely they are to trust you, understand you, and value your relationship. Organizationally, off-site retreats are often designed to broaden this window.  It takes risk to open and build trust with others, and many fear that the disclosure will backfire as judgment and/or a misperception of weakness.  This is always a risk.

The Blind Spot window is what is known by others, yet not known to you about yourself. These are messages we unconsciously hide from ourselves, yet they are communicated to others. We learn about these pieces of information when someone offers the “gift” of feedback (however, well or poorly wrapped). This window is expanded organizationally through the proper usage of 360’s, 1:1’s (i.e. one-on-one’s), and coaching.  Receiving feedback can help you move from a Blind Spot window to an Open window.

The Mystery (Unknown) window is what is not known by others and what is not known by you about yourself. These are things in our unconscious that we conceal from ourselves. This concealment is often for a reason: we aren’t ready to accept them, and we are not ready to change, so we don’t think about them. This information can be surfaced through counseling, group therapy, or dreams. Examples include a desire for adventure, “hidden talents,” release of sublimated emotions that contribute to addictions and/or other fears, discovering your purpose in life, etc.


Get out the Windex!

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of a virtual consultancy of OD experts, CLG.  Visit us at

© Rossina Gil, 2014