Have you ever said or done something that you later wished you had not?
If you think back to that experience, can you recall what emotion you were feeling?
Perhaps it was anger, perhaps it was fear.
(Some people say the source of all anger is fear. I’m not sure I’m sold on that conclusion.)
Moving toward pleasure or away from pain
All major actions are powered by our emotions. On the happy side, emotions power us to do things like get married, get pregnant, buy houses, and take exciting trips. And on the other side, they also power us to do things like get divorced, move away from places (and people) and quit the jobs that don’t fulfill us.
So this may all seem very obvious, and of course that’s because it is, in a general sort of way. Yet what I have found is that many of us continue to overlook the importance of emotion is in moving others (and ourselves) into action.
In sales, we talk about this phenomenon in terms of motivation. Specifically, in real estate, when someone contacts us about buying or selling a house, it is of critical importance to first determine WHY they want to buy or sell.
What’s that action going to DO for them? What will they get from it? And why is that important to them? Deep under these layers of motivation we will ultimately uncover a feeling. Buying or selling is either going to help them realize a positive feeling or get away from a negative feeling.
The same concept arises in organizations and employment. Employees of a company will join or leave based upon the emotions that they feel in connection with the work that they’re doing, as well as the environment that they’re doing it in.
Countless articles have been written about how, if you want to attract talent these days, it’s not about the money. Obviously money is great, yet if the person doesn’t feel good about the work or the workplace, it’s not going to, um, work.
Working with emotions
So how can we use this knowledge to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us?
We can ask more questions designed to get to what a person is feeling.
We can remind ourselves what feelings actually are (and stop mis-using the word feel in places where the word think belongs.)
Example: I feel like traffic has gotten a bit worse in recent weeks.
When we are ready to take an action, we can ask ourselves what we’re feeling, in order to determine whether our action will be coming from a desire to move toward something we want, or away from something we don’t want.
Why is this helpful?
Have you ever thought a person was a particular way, and yet later found out that they were different?
We humans have an uncanny knack for making assumptions about other people, creating stories in our minds about why people do the things they do, and then judging them for what we’ve imagined about them.
This predilection is a leftover from ancient times when we had to make swift decisions in life or death scenarios, like what to do when we stumbled in front of a lion. Judgment was useful for staying alive in a wild and dangerous environment.
In today’s world, not so much.
Rather than make assumptions and tell ourselves stories about others, we can ask direct questions to get to the heart of what they are feeling. Once we know what they are feeling, we can understand them in a whole new way and help to move them into the action that will help get them what they want.
And we can do the same for ourselves.