Because you feel it, It's true for you, And there may be truer

Your Feelings Don’t Matter…and They Matter

Before I dive into an explanation for this hopefully provocative headline, I want to let you know my next live course, The Art of Asking Questions, begins March 31, 2022.

The individual’s experience used to not matter so much, especially their feelings.

Psychology is only about 120 years old and, prior to the late Renaissance, what the King and the aristocracy thought was so important that commoners kept a lot of their thoughts and feelings to themselves. It was a matter of survival.

In the western world, this changed when the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe beginning in the 1500s, ultimately arriving at the freedom of speech and religion that many enjoy today.

When humans make changes, though, we tend to pendulum from one extreme to another. Surely the oppression of individual expression and emotion has been the tragic norm for thousands of years, but let us notice how we err to the other side, to what I call “extreme subjectivism.”

The over-emphasis on the experience of the individual can lead to a kind of emotional indulgence, where a person’s feelings override common sense, reason, and right action. This is dangerous indeed.

For example, there is no inherent or legislated human right to not be offended. Opinions vary. Takes on reality differ. If someone makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to advocate for yourself using your free speech. To deny this is victimhood.

No one is not responsible for your feelings, but a mature person ought to be responsive. If they are not responsive, it hurts even more, but you have the freedom to go elsewhere. You have the right to choose your friends, your media, your conversations, etc. You do not have the right to not have your feelings hurt.

If you rail against them for being not what you want them to be, you only display your need for control. I know, it’s difficult, and I’ve surely been guilty of this. I tiraded plenty before I surrendered to this truth.

Calling someone “racist” for example may be true, but isn’t productive. It’s name-calling. In debate, that’s called “ad hominem” and it’s not considered mature or compelling discourse. The fact is that people have the legal right to think and say racist things. I personally don’t like racism at all. I see it as a combination of fear-based in/out-group collectivism and uncritical thinking. It’s weak, immature, and stupid, but people have the right to be that, don’t they?

Racist and/or discriminating actions are a whole other matter. We have laws against that.

When someone is offended and calls another person “racist,” it doesn’t help the “offender” change and almost always makes them dig in their heels. I’m so glad the experience of the individual matters as much as it does today. Your feelings matter, finally. But if you indulge your feelings to the point where it drives you to act aggressively in ways that don’t help, well then perhaps you’re making your feelings matter too much.

Now that many of us have learned to be sensitive, the next step is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability means relationally communicating the hurt one feels in a non-blaming, non-aggressive, open way, with no demand that the other person change.

Vulnerability means saying “Ouch, that really hurts,” and giving the other an opportunity to respond, risking you may get more hurt. It’s scary, but it lets the other into your world so they can feel the impact they had on you.

But for you to do that, you have to feel the impact first. Of course, it’s far easier to get angry instead of hurt, and to name-call instead of vulnerably sharing pain to give the other an opportunity to be responsive.

Your feelings matter so much that you should feel them, not expect others to without you doing so first. If they do, enjoy it! If they don’t, I’m sorry for your hurt, but that’s life. No one has the right to not be emotionally hurt. See what you can learn from the experience, because that learning matters even more than your feelings.

Life, in one way, doesn’t care how its lessons for us feel, have you noticed? To learn from those lessons, you need to replace extreme subjectivism and victimhood with extreme curiosity about the truth. “How did I draw this painful experience to me? What does it have to teach me?”

If you can do this with yourself, then you can do it with those whom you mentor, which is a critical part of management. If you can’t, you’re not developing people, you’re supervising them. Their performance suffers accordingly because nobody likes to be babysat, and people intrinsically want to grow.

It’s a manager’s job to care and be curious about their people’s experience, especially when an employee is at odds with the truth. That’s when they need you the most, but it’s where most managers run for cover because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, that’s the job. But if you put your feelings ahead of truth, then you invite Life to give you an even more painful lesson next time.

For those truly interested in discovering truth via powerful, incisive inquiry I offer my next live course: The Art of Asking Questions: Curiosity, Listening, and Intuition

It begins March 31, 2022.

Here’s a freebie, a very powerful question you can use often:

Why wouldn’t you? 😉

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