What are your “emotional” prejudices?

In my last post, I discussed the connection between being emotionally authentic and the emotions cycle.

I also mentioned the concept of “display rules” (cultural/work) which impact which emotions are “appropriate” for women or men to express in a given situation.

In this post, I am digging a bit deeper into this topic albeit from a slightly different perspective— predjudice.

To be prejudiced is to pre-judge a person or situation based on a bias, world view, or preconceived set of assumptions which act as filters through which you view, judge, draw conclusions about, and modify your actions regarding the person or situation you are facing.

While you might not be, and probably are not, aware of your prejudices or may not view what you do as based on a prejudice, these beliefs still powerfully impact how you interact with others.

In a recent episode of “911”, a female firefighter valiantly saves a young victim who was underwater from a traffic accident.  The female firefighter puts herself at risk, stays totally focused, does what she was trained to do and administers CPR.  The “emotions” she expresses while doing her job involve focus, concern, courage and commitment. It is a highly stressful situation in which the survival of the victim is very uncertain.

Once the victim begins to breathe and is out of danger, the firefighter expresses her relief by crying.  She is happy, relieved and decompressing.

While the tears are obvious, the EMT is always in control of herself, is situationally appropriate and it is clear that the tears are an emotional tension release.

Her male partner responds to her by saying ” Is this going to be a regular thing?”

She responds, “Probably”.

From an Emotions as Tools and emotional prejudice  perspective, let’s dive a little deeper into this (fictional) exchange,

I thought the writers hit the nail on the head and very dramatically illustrated several cultural biases against emotional displays.

The male’s comments, while not necessarily demeaning, are clearly derogatory and judgmental and imply that his colleague’s actions might not be “appropriate”. It is clear that he respects his colleague and knows that she did an exceptional job saving the victim. But, he is saying that it isn’t professional (or perhaps too feminine  or “like a woman”) to express this emotion on the job as a first responder.

Interestingly, he responds to the release of tension by also tearing up and says, “Now, you got me doing it. Please don’t tell the guys.”

Or, to put it another way, he did not want to be labelled as weak, overly emotional, unmanly, or out of control by his male peers.

The male labelled his female partner’s emotional display (tears) as “inappropriate”.

Or, to put it another way, women should not cry on the job.

He failed to see that her tears were in the service of relieving tension.  They were not an emotional display of, for example, sadness or frustration which, one could argue, might, or might not be “appropriate”.  He only saw a woman crying and made a snap judgement.

He also, by implication, labelled his own emotional display as “inappropriate”. In his mind, men should not cry.

Again, he failed to see that his tears were both a response to the reduction in stress and an empathic connection with his partner.

Males emotionally judging of females and males emotionally judging themselves or feeling judged by other males are  examples of emotional prejudices and can be problematic.

Emotional Validation

The clear implication in the “scene”  was that the male firefighter was reacting to both the ending of a tense situation and to his female colleague’s tears with his own tears.  This was both a release and an expression of empathy.

And, yet, because of his own prejudices, he chose to invalidate his emotions.

Was his emotional display valid? Yes.

Was it appropriate?

Well, the situation was over and the tension had passed. Both he and his female co-worker were recovering from the emergency. So, psychologically, yes, it was appropriate. And, maybe even according to work display rules (outside of the public’s view), the display may very we’ll have been appropriate.

From the perspective of cultural display rules, however, … no it wasn’t (according to his prejudices) appropriate.

There is a bit of a disconnect here in that typical cultural display rules deem it okay for woman to express tearful emotions as long as the display doesn’t get extreme. Sadness and emotional release are considered a feminine characteristics.

But, he questioned her actions in a professional context which is interesting because it was after the incident, in the firehouse, and did not interfere with anything.

She validated her own emotions when she noted that in the future, under similar circumstances, she would respond in a similar manner.

What are your emotional prejudices”?

  • How do you view female emotions?
  • Can a woman be sad, anxious, hurt, or vulnerable? When and under what circumstances (home, work)?
  • Can a women be angry? When and under what circumstances (home, work)?
  • Can a man be sad, anxious, hurt, or vulnerable? When and under what circumstances (home, work)?
  • Can a man be angry? When and under what circumstances (home, work)?
  • Do you have an emotional double standard in which the display rules for men are different from those that apply to men?

Society does seem to have an emotional double standard.

The best way to determine if you have emotional prejudices is to examine your own thoughts/actions when you implicitly or explicitly judge or criticize the emotional actions of yourself or another person.

If you seem to be judging another person based on an emotion, take a breath, take a step back from the situation, and attempt to make an objective assessment of the situation before you choose an adaptive response to that situation.

If you are a follower of this blog, you will immediately recognize that the recommendations to take a deep breath and a step back and then objectively assess the situation before you decide on a response are the steps involved in mastering emotions as strategic tools.







This is a head’s up on an interesting podcast that drops tomorrow 5/16/23.

A podcast Create the Courage to be Fearless on which I was a guest will drop tomorrow on Apple Podcasts.

Here is the link


As a reader of this blog, you know that I don’t think we should be “fearless”.

Rather, we should learn to master fear and use it strategically.

We do talk about this during the episode.


Here is a brief video giving an insight into the podcast.

The potential bind of situational authenticity – A follow-up comment.

In my last post, I addressed the idea of emotional authenticity and noted the diference between situational authenticity in which you true to what is going on and you express the emotion you are experiencing and emotional authenticity in which you are true to the emotion you are experiencing but you choose not to directly express that emotion because of display rules which would elicit unwanted  consequences should you  outwardly display the emotion you are experiencing in your situation.

Situational authenticity

The potential bind is this…

  • You view yourself as an honest person.
  • You validate and honor your emotions.
  • Your default position is to directly state and act upon the message of the emotion you are experiencing.
  • You realize that expressing your emotion directly would put you at risk of experiencing negative consequences you would rather avoid.
  • Do you express your emotions, take the risk and pride yourself on being honest and later berate yourself for taking such a risk?
  • Do you choose to hold the emotion in and berate yourself for being weak or gutless?

There are at least two major problems with this scenario.

First of all, it is, for you, a lose-lose proposition because no matter what you do, you end up feeling inadequate or having gotten “the short end of the stick”.

Secondly, as set up, the choices are a false dichotomy  in that while it appears to be a binary decision in which there are only two choices, there is a third choice which allows you to be honest and authentic and avoid unwanted negative consequences.

Emotional Authenticity

Your third option involves  being true to your emotion.

When your focus is on experiencing and validating the emotion, you are being honest, authentic and true to your emotions.

In addition, you are being aware of your situation and the display rules which exist in that situation.

Your plan of action involves using the energy of the emotion as motivation to seek out and plan your actions around dealing with the threat in such a way that you eliminate or minimize the threat using indirect, possibly more passive (as opposed to assertive), means.

By taking a more indirect approach, you avoid being marginalized, demeaned or attacked while taking pride in the knowledge that you are dealing with the problem your emotions have alerted you to and prepared you to take action to resolve.

Hence, you are honoring the emotion AND staying safe.

The above discussion applies to emotionally intelligent women who view the message of and the emotion of  anger  as valid and men who view the messages of anxiety and vulnerability and the accompanying emotions as valid.  The approach these individuals take to their emotions basically states that their emotions are always valid but the message of the emotion needs to be assessed and the choice of one’s resp0nse will vary with and be sensitive to the context in which the emotion is experienced.