Today’s little gem comes from speaker, author, and CEO-advising type Peter Bregman, who asks the simple question, “Do you know what you are feeling?”
What good, he asks, is all the therapy and yoga and navel-gazing activities that he and his wife have engaged in over the years? The answer is simple: now when something affects them, they can identify their feelings and talk about them.
It sounds simplistic at first blush, but just think about it: how often do we go around being affected by things, reacting to them, then deciding that those feelings are silly and repressing them? Or not identifying the feelings at all? Maybe we think it’s not necessary to do so, and that tamping down our feelings sometimes will have no effect. But what about that headache you have later? Or the way you lose patience with your kids that evening?
Unacknowledged feelings simmer under the surface, waiting to lunge at unsuspecting, undeserving bystanders. Your manager doesn’t answer an email, which leaves you feeling vulnerable — though you don’t acknowledge it — and then you end up yelling at an employee for something unrelated. Why? Because your anger is coiled in your body, primed, tense, aching to get out. And it’s a lot safer to yell at an employee than bring up an uncomfortable complaint with a manager.
It’s clear that many of us do this all the time, and it’s harmful, both to us and to the people around us. But knowing what’s going on – and how to handle it – isn’t easy. Bregman has a simple metric:
How do you get to those feelings? Take a little time and space to ask yourself what you are really feeling. Keep asking until you sense something that feels a little dangerous, a little risky. That sensation is probably why you’re hesitant to feel it and a good sign that you’re now ready to communicate.
That’s right: once again, where there is fear, there is power. Moving into vulnerability is a powerful way to connect with another person – and dispel all the ways that anger and fear can turn into steamrollers.