Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Part 1 of this blog topic began to look one’s feelings. There have been volumes written on this topic so what is shared here is just an overview. As promised, this continuation of the first part will look at naming your own feelings and listening to the feelings of others. I’ll start with naming your own feelings. Quick……name the first three feelings that come to your mind. Really, before you read any further, close your eyes and name them. I’d be willing to bet you named happy, sad, and mad. These are the most basic of feelings and we usually become very familiar with them as children. However, if you do an internet search for a ‘list of feeling words’ or something similar to that you will be amazed at the words you know that describe feelings. Granted, many of them are synonyms for our three basic words, but each of them conveys a different state of the same feeling. For instance, just the word mad can be expressed with many words that indicate the degree/type of mad – from mildly irritated to murderous rage.
Naming our feelings helps us to better convey to someone how we are feeling and helps us to get a grasp on the intensity of the feeling. Hopefully it pushes us to explore even further to try and understand why we are responding like we are to the situation. Our typical human response is to assume that everyone will react as we are. If you check that out through your own experience you will notice that it isn’t true. Something said to you may elicit rage while to someone else it’s only mildly provocative – not even worthy of an argument. Discovering this and sharing it with someone is what helps develop a deeper, more intimate relationship or a better understanding of them.
On the other hand, listening to the feelings of others will help you to better understand them and help that relationship move into a more meaningful place even more quickly. And you can help someone else with their feelings. I like to call it ‘mining’ the conversation. When you are in a conversation with someone, pay attention to what is said and remember that there is something important about it to the speaker. Ask the questions that will help you understand why it is important. You may see them get enthused, excited, angry, pensive, or any other number of things and you can ask them about that reaction. Saying things like, “Wow, this is really important to you. Tell me more about it” can reveal things from their past that helps you become closer or understand them better. Much can be learned about someone from these responses. Compare these two potential answers to your question: “Is important to me because it will give me a chance to do something I love” or “It’s important to me because it’s the disease I lost my father to.”
Listening doesn’t necessarily mean hearing with your ears! If you pay close attention you will notice body language that tells you something about the conversation. When people are excited about something their eyes open wide, they may sit forward with an open body posture. If they are angry they most likely show it on their face with a grimace. These are moments when you can help the relationship by reflecting what you see. Asking, “I noticed that when we mentioned Joe Smith you didn’t look too happy. Is there something about that topic that’s hard for you?”
This sort of conversation is very difficult and awkward if you aren’t used to doing it. And doing it in a setting with your church folk can be especially difficult because of the fear that we will embarrass our self or the person we are talking to. But genuine deep concern for the other person and a desire to understand so resolution and compromise can happen will make it easier to try. And the more you do it, the easier it gets!
And you won’t enjoy expressing all of your feelings but learning to do so, especially the negative ones, like anger, hurt, disappointment, and despair, to name a few, actually helps heal your own self and a relationship. Being able to talk about past loss, hurt, or pain in the church setting helps others to understand why you may have strong feelings toward certain proposals and make them more likely to consider a compromise.
Last, remember that listening is just that – LISTENING! Not defending yourself, not trying to ‘fix it’, not offering possible solutions to other person’s situation, not working on what you are going to say back and no problem solving. It’s amazing how far good listening will take a relationship and help a body of people learn to practice grace!
In the last part on this topic of feelings I will talk about obstacles to good listening.