Do you clearly recognize the difference between a thought and a feeling?

Several years ago, I participated in a class on inter-personal communication.  The class met for several weeks on Sunday evenings at the church I was attending at the time.  It was an excellent class and still today I use the knowledge I gained for both my business and my personal life.

This particular class taught us several key components to utilize in order for communication with someone to be effective.  There was a strong emphasis on communicating around difficult topics – those topics in which two parties had different opinions; did not agree; or viewed the topic from differing perspectives.   These communication strategies were to help us all avoid less effective although common styles such as arguing, avoiding, or controlling.   The strategies were designed to help two parties come to a solution or agreement satisfying to both of them.There were several pieces they encouraged us to utilize in all of our communications.  Just one of these was to distinguish our thoughts from our feelings and to incorporate that distinction when expressing ourselves to another person or group.It was highlighted that it is common for someone to say, “I feel that…..” and then complete that sentence with what they are “thinking.”    Although it made perfect sense, seemed common sense in fact, I realized how often I said, “I feel …” when I was actually expressing a thought.One thing that makes the separation of the two challenging is that in reality, thoughts and feelings are inextricably linked to one another.  Yes, there are thoughts; and there are feelings.  They are distinct.  However, one does not typically occur without one of the other accompanying it.   You can think something and it creates a feeling.  You have a feeling and if you take notice, you’ll realize it’s because of something you’re thinking.Here are a few examples for illustration:

•    I feel disappointed (frustrated; afraid; angry) because I think I’m being taken for granted
•    I feel angry because I think my opinion doesn’t matter
•    I feel frustrated because I think my ideas are not being taken into consideration
•    I feel afraid because I made a mistake and I think it might cost me my job
•    I feel frightened because I think you are angry with me and I’m not sure why

Those are different and more accurate than saying:

•    I feel I’m being taken for granted
•    I feel my opinion doesn’t matter
•    I feel you’re angry with me
•   (Etc.)

Look at each of them and observe which words are feelings and which ones are thoughts.Learning to distinguish your thoughts from your feelings will benefit you as you learn to manage your own thoughts, behaviors and reactions.  It will also benefit you as you plan out difficult communication that has you feeling anxious or afraid.Learning to distinguish thoughts from feelings helps give you greater clarity and therefore a stronger, more solid foundation on which to make decisions; communicate with others; and plan your actions.  When you have a clearer understanding of both thoughts and feelings, it is easier to manage both because although they are inextricably linked, they are also distinct.  Gaining clarity helps to keep one from influencing the other; and from unduly influencing your actions and reactions.

Fueling Your Inner Fire with ACTION:

When you hear yourself saying, “I feel…..,” ask yourself, “Is this really a feeling or is it a thought?”  Alternatively, when you are feeling an emotion, ask yourself, “What am I thinking that is causing that feeling?”Base your actions and reactions on the clarity you discover.

One step toward greater clarity in life comes in learning the important distinction between thoughts and feelings