OK, let’s face it. Your engineer is completely unfamiliar with this concept. All his life he’s focused on developing his IQ, getting rewarded for his skills at this form of intelligence. He did this precisely to avoid messy emotional issues – which caused pain any time he tried to deal with them.
The probability of your engineer knowing how to effectively use his own emotions is about the same as having a snowstorm in Palm Springs – it’s possible in theory, but don’t bet your life savings on it!
As to sensing the emotional state of anyone else, well let’s just say that if a person doesn’t really know his own emotional state, how can that person be expected to know the state of anyone else?
If you want your engineer to know how you are feeling now, then the first and most critical rule is “Don’t be subtle!”
Make up a number of signs with the names of the emotions you’d like him to be able to recognize. Keep the list short, at least for now!. Wear the sign with the emotion you are feeling right now!
Be prepared to explain exactly which stupid action on his part got you to feeling this way. He knows logical cause and effect, but can’t begin to hook together the reason for any emotional reactions on your part – he stopped growing emotionally somewhere in his childhood!
Some of you might ask how you help your engineer learn some of these emotional skills. Wow! Are you ever courageous! When we try to think of something more futile, all that comes to mind is teaching an accountant how to crack a joke.
Start by watching the later seasons in Star Trek: The Next Generation together. Point out that even the android character “Data” wants to feel emotions and become more like a human being. Don’t be too subtle here – you already know that subtlety is LOST on your engineer.
Another way is to make a game out of learning. Charades with emotion cards! His efforts to act out any of the emotions should easily be the most hilarious moments of the evening, but try not to laugh – he’s already feeling more than a bit uncomfortable.
Your engineer is nothing if not competitive! If the game has a winner (and therefore he thinks everyone else is a loser), he might just engage – hopefully for long enough to learn to read a few body language clues.
Having him play with a six year old girl should be a fair match – he might eventually win one game, but the pain of losing so often might actually drive him on.
Whenever he’s lucky enough to guess the emotion being demonstrated within 3 guesses, you need to respond as if this was your 4 year old reading her first words – and this analogy might be closer to the truth than you think! Create a powerful incentive for him to continue to try to develop in this area.
Make learning emotions into a fun game, to take away the pain avoidance approach to emotions that have long been the survival strategy for your engineer.
Keep it up long enough, and you might find your friends begin to invite you out again!