Jeffosophy: a collection of possibly useful things I have learned over the years.



Faces - detail; by Ira Nikolayeva 
Detail of painting by Ira Nikolayeva


Why You Should Always Ask About Feelings

Have you ever told a friend, "I know how you feel"? If so, you were probably wrong. Sure, you may well have been through a similar experience, but your feelings associated with the experience most likely differed. So, rather than telling friends -- or partner, or family or cute people you meet at social functions -- that you know how they feel  and probably being wrong, get into the habit of asking your friends and others how they felt about the stories they tell. You may be surprised by their answers, they will appreciate your interest in their feelings and you will learn from listening.

When a friend describes any experience, ask her "How did you feel about that?" It deepens the conversation and brings you closer to your friend. And don't just ask about negative experiences (when people are most likely to say, "I know just how you feel"); ask also about positive experiences and even experiences which may not immediately seem emotional.

You needn't limit yourself to interrogating friends and others whom you are close to. If a colleague at work tells you about a conversation with the boss, why not ask her how she felt about it? If the stranger you meet at a networking event tells she has just started a new job, ask her how she feels about it. Of course strangers probably won't go into the same depth that friends and lovers will, but they are likely to open up. And, they are likely to think you are an interesting person because of your interest in them.

Two warnings

Firstly, with friends, be aware that if you ask a friend how she feels about some event, there is a small possibility that you may be met with a flow of tears or anger or some other strong emotional reaction. If a friend is going through a difficult time and you are the first person to ask her how she feels about it, she may open up like a floodgate. If so, be there. Listen. Hug (if appropriate). Your patience and attention will be appreciated.

Secondly, if you ask about a sensitive topic, the other person - especially if she is not close - may not want to talk about her feelings or the incident in any depth. If so, tell your friend that it is okay not to answer and talk about something else. Do not push her.  Alternatively, if your friend seems reluctant to respond, tell her that she does not have to talk about it if she does not want to do so. However, in my experience, nine times out of ten she will tell you that she does want to talk about it and is just organising her thoughts. Nevertheless, she will appreciate your respecting her option not to speak about it.


So, what do you think? How do you feel about this short article?




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