When “I feel that..” does not lead to naming a feeling
Before we make any decision we need to listen not only to rational, objective reasons, but also to how we feel about the situation. One problem in many situations and relationships is that people may have difficulty in giving voice to their feelings, which they confuse with their thoughts about whatever the topic is. Instead of talking about them, they talk around them.
Loosing important information
It can be amazing to observe the lengths that some of us will go to in order to avoid speaking feelings directly, but this may be because we do not know how to, or we have been punished for doing so. Giving voice to our feelings is discouraged in many families. The emphasis is often on being “rational,” and to describe someone as “emotional” is often a put-down. As a result, many people have so little experience of speaking their feelings that they have forgotten how to tune in to what they really feel. This can mean that the loss of important information that is essential to good decision-making.
I feel that…
One of the most common ways of talking around a feeling, rather than about it, is “I feel that…” While working with adult students in discussion, or playing the role of a “client,” I notice that as they are asked how they feel, that is how they frequently begin their response.
Any time a sentence begins with “I feel that…” you are not going to hear what the person FEELS, you are going to hear what they THINK about what they feel or about the situation in general.
To clarify, this is how a typical coaching session might go:
Client: “I just don’t know whether I should stay or move.”
Coach: “When you think about staying, how do you feel?”
Client: “I feel that I should stay because people count on me.”
Coach, in a gently humorous voice: “Okay, that’s what you THINK about what you should do. Now, imagine you have decided to stay. How do you FEEL?”
Client: “I feel that people will be angry if I move.”
Coach: “When you say you feel THAT, I know you are going to tell me a thought, not a feeling. You just mentioned how other people feel, but we need to talk about how YOU feel. Get in touch with what is inside you. What is your gut saying? When you think about staying or moving, what is the feeling, not the thought but the feeling?
Client: “I feel…. I guess I feel trapped.”
This type of interaction lets people (partners, friends, clients, others) know that it is okay to speak of feelings, and by doing so has helped them to listen to the messages that are being sent from the gut. This is an important predecessor to making major decisions.
Try it… first and most importantly on yourself, but also on the people around you who may find it easier to talk around a feeling than about it.
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