As stores in the U.S. display red and pink hearts, flower bouquets, and boxes of chocolates, it seems appropriate to talk about feelings this month.
Notice your demeanor when you feel love. Perhaps, you show up with more love with everyone you meet. And the same happens with joy, as the adage goes “laughter is contagious.”
What happens when you experience something less than pleasant? You may want to be sure everyone knows about it, or you may wish to hide those less than wonderful feelings. Either way, you bring your feelings with you. And may do so at a cost.
I often see conflicts exacerbate when businesses, families, organizations, and teams ignore or dismiss feelings. Someone may not be aware of their own feelings and it comes out side ways in the things they think, say, or do. Folks withdraw or shut down or show up with harshness and aggression. It may be tone of voice, body language, or simply the energy they bring to the room. A colleague or team member may believe someone “should not” feel a certain way, and therefore not acknowledge it.
Words are spoken. Actions taken. And those “feelings” change the entire dynamic.
If you are a leader who balks at the idea of “facing feelings” and envision folks standing in a circle singing “Kum-bay-yah,” I see you. I come from a long line of feeling deniers, who put on the “strong” face suggesting everyone is fine, even when it’s not. What the younger me did not realize is that those feelings go somewhere, whether you stuff them down or inadvertently let them leak out in other ways.
In my decades of practicing law, and now as a mediator, I get a glimpse into the millions of dollars, not to mention the time, energy, reputations, and relationships, that unaddressed feelings cost.
Wondering what I really mean by “facing feelings?”
Facing feelings simply means acknowledging the feeling exists. Paying attention to feelings, your own and someone else’s, involves a level of awareness. It does not necessarily call for fixing or even taking responsibility. When you acknowledge someone’s feelings, including your own, you recognize the full humanity, and bring a sense of being seen or understood. (Whether the situation has been going on for three months or three years, folks often tell me during mediation is the first time they feel seen or heard. Imagine all the time, energy, and money that could be saved if someone would see or hear sooner.)
You do not need to hold hands and talk about your feelings. However, being aware of them often helps de-escalates situations, and allows you focus your time, money and energy on the vision you wish to create.
You do not have to agree with someone’s feelings to acknowledge them. You may acknowledge someone’s feelings whether or not you think they “should” feel that way.
It also helps to remember feelings do not justify harmful or unhealthy behavior. Feeling hurt does not give anyone permission to hurt someone. You may interrupt the space between feeling and action by facing the feeling. Sometimes naming it takes away some of the feeling’s power. You may click here for a complimentary feelings inventory (list of feelings) to help you identify and acknowledge.
Facing feelings is one of the eleven steps to conflict resolution and peace building I talk about in Creating Connective Communications.
Feelings may be so wonderful and powerful. They signal content and satisfaction or discontent and dissatisfaction. They are neither right nor wrong. The choices we make as a result of them may lead to wonderful results, irreparable damage, or anything in between.
Whether you realize it or not, your feelings impact your family, team, organization, and even community. The energy you bring to all of these spaces and places matter.
You may show up with greater intention and more in alignment with who you wish to be and what you wish to create when you are aware your feelings, and take time to notice and acknowledge the feelings of those around you.
What if you face feelings?
What if facing feelings improves your relationships at home, work, and in your community?