Feeling vs Non Feelings
My sons and I tease a talk radio host who said, “Words matter” and summarily butchered the English language and the field of ethics. The irony was not lost on us. He was right about the fact that words matter in communicating. They do. Marshall Rosenberg does a great job describing this in his book NonViolent Communication:
In general, feelings are not being clearly expressed when the word "feel" is followed by:
- Words such as "that, like, as if." The pronouns "I, you, he, she, they, it."
- Names or nouns referring to people.
It is not necessary to use the word "feel" at all when we're actually expressing a feeling.
You can say "I feel irritated" or "I am irritated."
We distinguish between words that truly express feelings and those that describe what we think we are.
"I feel inadequate as a guitar player," is a description of what we think we are.
In that statement, I am assessing my ability as a guitar player, rather than clearly expressing my feelings.
An actual feeling would be "I feel disappointed in myself as a guitar player."
"I feel impatient with myself as a guitar player. "
"I feel frustrated with myself as guitar player. "
The actual feeling behind my assessment of myself as inadequate could therefore be disappointment, impatient, frustration, or some other emotion.
*Is helpful to differentiate between words to describe what we think others are doing around us, and words to describe actual feelings.
The following are examples of statements that are easily mistaken as expressions of feelings: in fact they reveal more how we think others are behaving than what we are actually feeling ourselves.
"I feel unimportant to the people with whom I work."
The word "unimportant" describes how I think others are evaluating me, rather than an actual feeling, which in this situation, might be "I feel sad" or "I feel discouraged."
"I feel misunderstood" -here the word "misunderstood" indicates my assessment of the other person's level of understanding rather than my actual feeling. In this situation, I may be feeling anxious or annoyed or some other emotion.
"I feel ignored"
-again this is more of an interpretation of the actions of others than a clear statement of how we are feeling. No doubt there are times that we thought we were being ignored and our feeling was much relief, because we wanted to be left to ourselves. No doubt there are other times however when he felt hurt when we thought we were being ignored, because we had wanted to be involved.
This is from Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg