We learn about what’s important to us through our feelings. We learn about what we value. Every feeling is a reminder of something important to us. Positive feelings remind us embrace or notice what’s important to us that’s happening. Negative feelings point out when something important to us is not happening or threatened.
- Anger tells us that something important to us is blocked
- Fear, that something important to us is threatened
- Shame, that we haven’t been living up to something important to us
- Confusion, that we’re missing a conception of something important to us
- and so on
This is challenging for people just starting out, but you can improve quickly.
Note that without a good understanding of what values are (see:
To master this skill quickly-
- Start with the worksheet in your student page.Emotions to Values Practice
- Once you’ve done that once or twice, try using the emotions to values tool on meaning supplies—with emotions that come up as you use the tool. Here’s a demo:
- After that, go interactive: share a value from your current feelings with someone patient—someone who can wait a few minutes while you dredge up the value and put it in the right form, and who encourages you along the way.
- If you’ve done all that, you’ll soon be able to go from an emotion to a value in 10 or 20 seconds. At that point, it becomes part of normal conversation.
Values and Feelings
This diagram shows how a series of conflicts can lead (via feelings) to new and interesting values:
It tells the story of two conflicts:
- I used to try to be liked by people. At some point, I realized this conflicted with my value of being at ease. I discovered I was being tense and fake in the name of being liked. Feeling appalled and embarrassed helped me decide not to aim at being liked, and instead try to be authentic and caring.
- Later, my new value of being authentic and caring came into conflict with being effective. I noticed myself being uncaring while pushing groups to be effective. Feeling frustrated and confused encouraged me to resolve this. I switched to a new view of effectiveness, about fostering capacity in myself and others.
I could drop the old values, precisely because I’d clarified what they’d really meant for me. The importance of the old values was entirely captured by the new, more comprehensive value . These powerful new values and perspectives come from negative feelings. Without our feelings, we’d be stuck with primitive values like being liked and being effective.
People are sometimes deaf to these messages in feelings. This deafness comes in three flavors:
- Repression. If a person doesn’t know they have feelings, or doesn’t let themselves feel them, they’re repressing them. Feelings can go away entirely when you repress them. A person becomes numb, depressed, or anxious.
- Venting. Other people do feel their feelings, but they aren’t taken seriously as carriers of what’s important. The feelings come back again and again, and the person becomes melodramatic.
- Avoidance. A third group gets all the way to recognizing what’s important, but doesn’t grapple with the conflicts revealed or reconcile them. People who do this will be perpetually lost, conflicted, confused, and escapist.
To avoid these problems, feel all the way through the situations of your life, starting with the emotions, ending with a reconciliation of values:
feeling → appreciating → grappling → reconciling
Invent It Yourself
Designing for Meaning
What information do you need from users, to make something meaningful for them?
The information in feelings
People often change plans because of feelings that come up. So, the feelings must be telling them something new! What kind of thing do feelings tell us?
Where do values come from?
If values are an idea, how do they get into our heads? Do we learn them?