Everything has a fact and a feeling part.
Feelings are an important part of being human, and they are present in every facet of life. It’s valuable to keep in mind that every message and situation has both a fact and a feeling part. One must identify both parts in order to deal with a conflict effectively or to communicate clearly. I learned this lesson late in life, and it would have saved me some time and trouble if I’d known about it sooner.
For 20 years, I led volunteers as an Army spouse. In one group that met monthly, there was one young woman who always sat at my right hand and objected to everything that the group proposed. She objected on a factual level – things like logistics, budget, and convenience. She slowed us down every single month.
If I’d been more savvy, I would have figured out that it wasn’t the facts that bothered her. She was having strong feelings that I was ignoring. I had a vague notion that she was unhappy or resentful, but I had no idea why. If I’d asked and listened, I could have saved us a lot of time arguing over facts for no good reason.
It’s a good idea to make a practice of identifying the fact and feeling part of situations. Is your pre-teen refusing to wash dishes? If so, then ask how he or she feels about washing the dishes. Of course, no one gets out of washing the dishes just because they don’t like the job. However, finding out why your pre-teen doesn’t like it can open an interesting discussion.
If a coworker consistently objects to following a procedure, find out why. You may get factual responses at first, but ask some curious questions about feelings until you know how he or she feels about the procedure. The discussion will usually include why he or she has those feelings, and that’s where the valuable part of the discussion resides. Once we know the emotions that a person is feeling and why, we have what we need to start finding a solution to the challenge.
You can even ask yourself about the feeling part of a personal situation. It’s great to list the facts and to know the pros and cons of possible actions. It is also enlightening to know how you feel about those possible actions and why. You can gain insight into your values and priorities by getting in touch with your feelings.
The answers to the question of what someone is feeling and why are usually surprising – something that you wouldn’t have guessed. The only way to identify the feeling part of a situation is to ask! The answer is the information that you need to begin finding a solution.
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