Volume 2 Module 2 - Observing and Intervening

Goals of this Module

  • Explore how noticing the emotions and moods of others can help build working relationships
  • Show that people with high levels of emotional fitness are good at recognising emotions and moods in others
  • Encourage people to notice other people’s emotions and moods and react or intervene sensitively

In this module we are going to think about how we can notice the emotions and moods of others and react in ways to help them when they need it.

Q: Remind yourselves of the differences between emotions and moods in the table below.

Emotion Mood

Related to the heart

Person is aware of the cause

Hard to control


About something


Starts and goes away quickly

Related to the mind

Person may not be aware of the cause


Long lasting

Not about anything in particular


Starts and goes away slowly

Scenario 2

Q: Read the following scenario and follow the instructions for a short role play

You have not sailed with this AB before. You have been told he is good at his job, hard-working and popular. But each time you have seen him, he has made no attempt to speak. He has given the appearance of rushing around and has an angry expression on his face. 

You have tried to make small talk, but he has made excuses and quickly walked away.  Another member of the crew reported that he was spotted throwing tins of paint over the side of the vessel. 

One day you are working together.  He does not speak, but stares at the floor, appears tense and ready for an argument.

Q: In pairs, one participant should play the role of the AB; The other, try to begin a conversation.

?Discuss as a Group
How did you start the conversation?
How did the AB reply?
What would you do next?

Note: After this session you may want to remind yourself of module 3 in the ‘Let’s Talk’ programme, in particular ‘Ask’ which is part of the memory aid ALL ACT.


According to psychologists, there are 7 universal emotions expressed across the globe. How easily can you recognise them in someone’s face?

Q: Name these facial expressions

Q: Complete the table below then discuss with a partner.

?What can you see in the face that tells you their emotion?









Q: As a group, discuss the following questions:

?Why do you think people sometimes upset each other when using email or texts?

It is hard to tell what people mean sometimes in an email or text because so much of what we communicate is through our facial expressions and our body language. 

That is why emojis were created – to help us express our emotions. :-)

?Why might it be important to be able to recognise someone else's emotions?

We can never know exactly what people are thinking but recognising people’s emotions can help give us a good idea how they might be feeling. 

As humans, we have developed over time to be able to communicate our emotions.

Research suggests that facial expressions of emotions are there so we can an influence on other people in some way.

So, if someone onboard is expressing fear then it is a good idea to find out why.

?Why do you think humans have developed over time to show their emotions in their faces? 
It may help to look again at the pictures above. 5 out of 7 are negative, surprise is neutral (it can be good or bad) and joy is the only completely positive emotional expression.

Some people are not very good at recognising emotions in other people.  This could be for example, because they have a condition where they are also not very good at recognising their own emotions, or because they have a brain injury where they cannot recognise facial expressions. This however is quite rare.

Here are some examples of why psychologists think humans have developed to facially express certain emotions:

  • Happiness: to encourage the other person to join with them in an activity
  • Sadness: to persuade the other person to protect or support them
  • Anger: to influence the other person to submit or back down
  • Fear: to show submission to someone else
  • Disgust: to break off the current joint activity

It is useful to identify your social style, the way you prefer to work with other people. It will help you understand why sometimes people find it hard to work together.  This is not because they dislike each other, but that the ways that they each like to work are different. 

When you know that, it means you can adapt to each other’s preferred style, and use the different approaches to improve teamwork.

The ways we like to work are linked to our personality and there are lots of different ways of measuring them.

Scenario 4

Q: Read the following scenario and make notes on the following questions:

You are the Bosun supervising the pumping of lube oil from drums into the engine room storage tanks.

When the drums are empty you tell an OS to store the empty drums on the poop deck temporarily.  He asks if he can have someone to help.  You turn to an AB who has just come on deck and instruct them to work with the OS.  

You briefly see an expression on his face which looks to you like disgust, or anger.  He turns away and slowly walks towards the empty oil drums.

?What sort of reasons might be behind the brief facial expression?
What would you do?

We cannot always know exactly what lies behind someone’s facial expression, but there is something causing it, and it might affect the safe passage of the vessel.

The better you get to know your fellow crew members, the more likely you are to spot behaviours that point to them having a problem.

When you see that sign you can then intervene and offer support.

Summary of module 2, volume 2

Q: Take a moment to write down what you will remember from this session and what you want to do as a result.

In this session we have talked about observing moods and emotions in other people. 

We looked at the 7 universal emotions that are recognised across the globe.

We discussed that it was important to be able to understand the emotions of other people, in order that we can react helpfully and find out sensitively what may be a problem for them or for the ship. 

References for this module include the following sources:

[1] Crivelli,C and Fridlund,A (2018)  Facial Displays are tools for social influence,  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol 22 No 5, p388-399