I feel as though you are…, I feel like she is being…, You make me feel so …, You hurt my feelings… These common “feel” statements seem to happen more times than not in any one conversation throughout the day. Have you ever stopped to think about these kind of statements? Despite the fact that I correct myself many times when I hear myself make such statements, I find them quite convincing. Think about it, how many times have you felt strongly about another persons actions and threw out one of the common “feel” statements? I believe that subconsciously, we tell ourselves that feelings are so very important that when we include the indication of a feeling in a statement, then what is being said must be justified.
Let’s get technical just for a moment and look at those statements a little closer. What is the feeling in each of those statements and who has given the power to the other person to influence the feelings of the one making the statement? For heaven sake, there has got to be a better way. Gratefully, there is. Many times with clients, I will try to help them to differentiate the difference between what they are thinking about a situation and what feelings they are having about a situation. This past week I was given an even deeper more concise perspective of differentiating thinking and feeling by breaking it down into three parts: data, judgment, and feeling.
A better understanding can be created by taking a better look at these three parts . First, data is the facts or the information in and information out. Ultimately, data is the unequivocal truth that can be recorded and acknowledged as evidence. Next, judgment is the opinion, assessment, conclusion, or story drawn about the data. Last, feelings, these are the primary feelings that are stirred up when we receive the data and create a judgment/assessment. As a result, without proper delivery of these three parts, a common statement can be stated as “You make me so mad!” Such a statement as this places the blame and responsibility on another person for invoking feelings without including data or the judgment drafted from the data. Therefore, let’s take a look at these three parts a little closer.
Data: You didn’t do the dishes after I asked you to do them this morning. Judgement/Assessment: You prioritized other things over doing what I requested of you and I think that what I say is not important to you. Feelings: I am sad and disappointed based on my assessment. A sentence based on the three parts: “You didn’t do the dishes after I asked you to do them this morning. The story I am telling myself is that you prioritized other things over doing what I requested of you and therefore, I don’t believe what I say to you is important and so I feel sad and disappointed.”
As you can see, the person isn’t really mad at all. However, upon relaying the data, assessment, and feelings discovers that he is actually sad and disappointed. Therefore, when we learn to communicate in a healthy manner, defensiveness is decreased and understanding is increased.