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No. 54 – Hearing Feelings – 1

December 28, 2011

Would our jobs as radiation safety specialists be easier if people left their feelings at home? Dealing with feelings is perhaps the most difficult aspect of communications which we confront either as safety specialists or in our daily lives. We all have feelings, we get angry, sad, afraid, and happy. We may even understand our own feelings, but the feelings of others are often difficult to comprehend. When we apply our normal approach to logically analyze feelings, we find ourselves baffled by the effort. Analyzing feelings, or the associated circumstances related to the feelings, does not seem to provide answers that we can understand.

When someone speaks in the feeling language, it seems like a foreign language. We hear the words, but they make no sense. They provide no data for logical analysis. In the process of trying to understand someone else’s feelings, so we can provide answers, invariably our own feelings get hooked. We may easily get frustrated, annoyed, angry, or fearful of where the feelings may lead. When confronted with feelings, we want to run away. Our natural preference is to avoid feelings, because we don’t know what to do with them. For most of us feelings are outside of our comfort zone and to be avoided as much as possible.

What can we do when feelings are an issue?

One of our counselors, Jim Morgan, stresses two principles for consideration:

1) feelings are more important than what is said, and

2) hearing feelings is more important than solving problems.

But, How do We Hear Feelings?

Hearing feelings is a skill that can be learned and developed by anyone. Not many, if any, are born with a gift for hearing feelings. Even gifted counselors take years of specialized training to master effective listening skills. However, you can begin today to practice what is called active listening. This is a process for hearing and reflecting feelings, described in several books by Dr. Thomas Gordon.*

To reflect feelings, you respond with a synonym that describes the feelings you perceive. For example, “You are feeling let down by your boss.” Your response shows that you heard the message and the feelings which accompany the message.

*Gordon, T., Leader Effectiveness Training. Bantam Books, New York, 1977.

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