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Sometimes we ask people how they’re doing without expecting an honest or complete answer. “How are you?”, we might say. Or: “How’s it going?” This type of inquiry is usually more of a greeting than a true question.
In this month’s newsletter Robin Charbit explains why sincerely asking someone how they are feeling can reveal valuable insights and set the course for a productive dialogue.
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This seemingly innocent question is actually a powerful lens through which to navigate life.
If you learned about the design of the mind in one of our programs, you’ll remember that you feel your thinking. You don’t feel the outside world or the circumstances, even if it looks that way. You can only ever feel what you are thinking. This is why two people in the same circumstances can feel different things. I had a friend many years ago who laughed all the way through horror movies!
When you remember the role of feelings, they become your guide. They let you know where you are psychologically at that moment. Are you settled or busy or somewhere in between? I don’t mean that in a judgmental way but more, “How’s the (inner) weather?” In the same way that a GPS tells you where you are physically, your feelings pinpoint your mental state.
As with GPS coordinates, knowing where you are helps you orient toward where you want to be. Feelings tell you whether you are “off your game.” They allow you to adjust, consider, and make other choices. For example, since I realized this, I rarely discuss something important or charged if I’m “off”. Or if the other person is “off”. We all know how those conversations go!
Now back to my question. What is the value of asking someone how they are feeling? For me, there are two purposes. First, you find out which version of the person you have in front of you and can intuitively see if they are up for the conversation or task you intend. Secondly, many people will look (inside) to answer. When they do, they get present to where they are on the inside. At best, it allows them to adjust (“Wow, it’s busy in here!”) but more deeply, it seems to alert their mind to what it is creating in them. Much like you naturally adjust your position when you notice tension in your body, noticing your feeling state gives you a chance to adjust and head back toward balance in your mind.
Of course, you can ask the question superficially, but if you ask sincerely and pay attention, it can really help.