I keep going back to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s reaction to the terrorist attack earlier this year. The attack, which came to be known as the Christchurch mosque shootings, killed 51 people in New Zealand. It was one of the worst horrors the otherwise peaceful country had seen, and naturally all cameras were zoomed in on the Prime Minister. During one of the press meets, a school student asked Ardern how she was feeling. She answered: “I’m deeply sad”.

The response came as a surprise to me.

I had been convincing myself that to be powerful and effective, one must feel less and less. But here was a Prime Minister, who not only acknowledged her emotions, but also allowed them to guide her in her job. The government immediately announced that the gun laws will change. The follow-up news on the attack shifted attention away from the terrorist. In fact, Ardern urged people to not even mention his name. She managed to take all the anger and sadness everyone was feeling, and channel it into something better: rebuilding a broken country.

She did all of this, despite feeling “deeply sad”. Or maybe, because of it.  Psychologist Daniel Kahneman says that feeling is a form of thinking. Anger, joy, sadness and excitement are all functions of the brain. It’s easy to view ‘thinking’ as logical and ‘feeling’ as a departure from rationality. After all, the dichotomy of thought and emotion is more imposed than we would like to admit.

People may like to believe that while making important decisions, logic and emotions must be kept in different buckets. However, in reality, you can never separate emotions from your reasoning process.

To me, the larger question is: Are we ready to rid ‘feeling’ of its bad reputation?

While, I’m not making a case for emotions in and off themselves, what I’m suggesting is that there is no need to discard, or resist emotions we feel everyday. We of course can’t act however we like and justify it as rational just because emotions are rational. But we don’t have to “become tougher” or “feel less” to come across as more serious.

We can learn to understand emotions. We can allow them to show us what it is that we care about and then guide us to do our work better. Whether it’s a Prime Minister responsible for a country, or you, responsible for whatever it is that your job demands of you, we can all become better at what we do—with emotions by our side!

Do give a read to our blog Understanding Feelings and Emotions.


Manisha Koppala is a graduate from Ashoka University. A curriculum editor at Harappa Education, she loves a cup of good coffee—no sugar, no straw and happens to be a free-hugs dispenser.


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