The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for Focusing On Feelings And Facts When Helping People To Shape Their Futures

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Good encouragers focus on both feelings and facts when helping people to shape their futures.

A doctor who is giving somebody bad news, for example, will do this in their own way. They may, however, say something like the following.

“We have got the results back. Unfortunately it is not good news. There are, however, several possible ways forwards.

“I recognise that this may come as something as a shock, so you may need time to reflect. I can also give you any more information you want to know about the results.

“When you are ready, but only when you feel it is appropriate, we can explore the possible ways forward.

“There are several different routes we can take. Each route has pluses and minuses. It is important that you know the implications about each route.

“First of all, however, I can give you any information you want to know about the present situation and the possible ways forwards.”

There is never an ideal way of dealing with difficult scenarios. One approach that helps, however, is to recognise the importance of feelings.

There are also many positive scenarios when it is important to focus on both levels. This is something we will explore later in the article. Before then, however, it may be useful to consider your own experience of taking this approach.

Looking back, can you recall a situation when you have helped a person by focusing on both the feelings and facts?

You may have helped them to overcome a setback, manage a transition, deal with a challenge or whatever. How did you try to help the person? What happened as a result of taking this approach?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you helped a person by focusing on both the feelings and facts.

Describe the specific things you did then to help the person.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking this approach.

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Many positive scenarios involve taking this approach. Mentoring sessions, for example, may involve helping a person to explore how to achieve a specific goal. This calls for exploring both feelings and facts.

Imagine that a person wants to clarify their long-term goals. One approach is to help them to go through the following stages.

They can clarify their picture of success – such as the things they want to achieve in their life or work.

They can clarify their potential options for going forwards – together with the pluses and minuses of each option. They can also clarify the attractiveness of each route. 

They can clarify their chosen route – or combination of routes – for achieving their picture of success.

The person can start by focusing on their feelings – such as what for them will mean they have had a fulfilling life. They can focus on facts by clarifying their possible options. They can then use feelings and facts to clarify the route they want to follow.

Here is the classic exercise that individuals often use to clarify their lifetime picture of success. Some people adapt this approach to clarify their work goals or the legacy they want to leave. The exercise involves a combination of feelings and facts.

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Choice Therapy is an approach that uses a combination of feelings and facts. This was an approach used in the therapeutic communities I ran for young people.

People who joined the community went through a vigorous interview. They needed to understand the deal before joining the programme.

The community would provide an encouraging environment and help them to work towards achieving their life goals. This often involved helping people to increase their chances of being healthy and happy.

The young person needed to play their part, however, and commit to certain actions. These included:

To take responsibility for shaping their future.  

To encourage other people. 

To follow the community guidelines.

The community was based on the philosophy of choices and consequences. People could choose to be positive or negative, take responsibility or avoid responsibility, help others or hurt others. Each choice had consequences.

People could also choose how to affect their feelings. If they encouraged themselves and others, for example, they were more likely to feel good. If they discouraged themselves and others, they were more likely to feel bad.

Imagine a young person saying, for example:

“I feel bad. I have felt bad for many years.”

The approach we took combined feelings and facts. So we would say something like the following.

“Yes, at the moment you feel bad. Looking ahead, what kinds of feelings do you want to have in the future?

“There are many things you can do to increase the chances of getting that feeling. You can choose: a) To … b) To … c) To …”

“Let us know which route you want to take. If you wish, we can then focus on how you can increase your chances of, for example, feeling healthy and happy.”

Choice Therapy sounds tough, but it often worked. It involved going through the following steps with a person.

Step 1: To accept that the person’s feelings were authentic and then to ask them what feelings they wanted to have in the future. 

Step 2: To explore the possible routes they could take to increase the chances of them having these feelings in the future. 

Step 3: To, if the person wished, encourage, educate and enable them to enjoy their desired feelings in the future.

Connecting with people on
the levels of feelings and facts

Good communicators recognise the importance of connecting with people on both levels. People are different, however, and have different ways of operating. Here are three different ways that people operate. These are extremes, of course, and people often blend these approaches.

Feelings People

Some people mainly operate and talk on the level of feelings. They can find it difficult to communicate with those who operate on the level of facts.

Facts People

Some people mainly operate and talk on the level of facts. They can find it difficult to communicate with those who operate on the level of feelings.

The classic example is when the feelings person says: “I feel …” The facts person responds by saying: “But that is illogical. Here are the facts.”

People Who Focus On
Feelings and Facts

Some people recognise when it is appropriate to relate to others on the appropriate level. They are able to connect on the levels of feelings and facts.

Good communicators often start on the level at which the receiver is operating. If appropriate, however, they may then show others why it can be useful recognise the importance of both feelings and facts.

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Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a situation when you may want to help a person to shape their future?

You may want to help them to deal with a setback, take the next step in their career, deal with challenge or whatever. How can you help them to take this step?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to help a person to shape their future by focusing on both the feelings and facts.

Describe the specific things you can do then to help the person to focus on both levels. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking this approach.

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