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Feelings Predict Behavior

This is such a simple truth I am surprised I never though of it sooner. I thought of it when I got this email from one the high school students, Armin, who has been helping me here in Montenegro.

hi steve. today i was thinking a lot about everything, and i thought that its better if give me something real to work on, because I dont have to much time to be at your place and not do anything. i relly like to talk with you, but in past few days there is to many people. im more for action. i would relly like to do something and earn some money, but... i dont know. try to understand. if you need anything, i will always try to help.

I thought about Armin's email and realized that it was very helpful to me for him to let me know this. I knew that if he feels bored, unproductive and unuseful, he will stop coming over to help. So I realized that his feelings were predicting his behavior if nothing changes. I then wrote him back this email

thanks for telling me this. i could also see u were feeling a little bored yesterday. i also know that u want to help and u have already helped me. so i dont want you to lose interest and stop being involved. i would feel very sad then.

Last night I was thinking about someone else and I thought again of this idea that "feelings predict behavior". I realized that I was starting to feel hurtful towards the person I was thinking about. I knew this could forecast me actually doing something hurtful, which I don't want to do. I don't want to act in deliberately hurtful way towards this person because a) it is against my guiding principle of not hurting others, even when they have hurt me, b) I know this person has been hurt a lot in the past and that is why they do many of the things they do, and c) it is probably not in my best interest to hurt this person intentionally.

When I searched Google today for "feelings predict behavior" I only found this result.

feelings, predict behavior, and camouflage authorial opinion. Phoenix tells. a story centered on Meleager, not a “legendary” hero by any means, but ...

It is still a little hard for me to believe that no the words "feelings predict behavior" are not found anywhere else in Google, but when I checked a second time, I still got the same single result. (Later, in November 2010 I found over 50 results)

I also find it hard to believe that the psychologists around the world haven't stated this so simply before, at least not in a place which got copied onto the Internet. To me this is more evidence that psychologists often make things too complicated.

In any case, this idea that feelings predict behavior makes a lot of sense to me. For example, if someone is feeling hungry, what are they likely to do? So if they are feeling hurt, threatened or bored, what are they likely to do? We can definitely start to make some predictions, but before we answer correctly we would have to know something about the person and the particular situation they are in.

This reminds me of one of the flaws in the tests which are now being marketed and promoted as tests of emotional intelligence. The tests don't allow for individual differences in deciding what is the "correct" answer. When one person is feeling hurt, the best response for them might be to leave the situation, while for another it might be to tell a joke. The "best" response, therefore depends on the individual, not necessarily on what anyone else thinks is "best".

Still, feelings do predict behavior. It is quite possible, in fact, that they are the best predictors of behavior we could find. This is another reason why identifying feelings and talking about them specifically in emotionally literate ways is important in any human interactions or relationships. In a work setting, I am becoming more and more convinced that talking specifically about feelings, and creating an emotionally safe work environment where people can be emotionally honest, is a very efficient, and therefore time and cost saving, form of communication. When there is any kind of emotional problem and you get to the actual feelings, you get to core of the problem. Then you can more quickly start to resolve it.

S. Hein
December 26, 2008


Update as of Oct 2011 there are now 12 search of results of "feelings predict behavior"not including those on eqi.org

Here is the search


Most of them are copying the quote from eqi.org, and giving us credit, which is nice to see :)

S. Hein

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