6 Steps to Making Another Person Feel "Felt"

86527756 copy.jpg

“I feel ya!” used to be a more common expression than it is today.  It means, “I understand what you are saying and I feel what you are feeling.”  It’s an aspect of empathy.  Dr. Daniel Goleman in The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, explains it as, “The core skill in social awareness is empathy – sensing what others are thinking and feeling, without them telling us in words.”  To “feel felt” is an important feature of empathy. Along with cognitive empathy (understanding the other’s perspective) and empathic concern (I am aware of your need and I’m ready to help you), feeling felt is “the basis for rapport and relational chemistry” (Goleman, Kindle location 754).

The core skill in social awareness is empathy – sensing what others are thinking and feeling, without them telling us in words.
— Dr. Daniel Goleman

There are a host of reasons for developing this skill.  Benefits include becoming more emotionally and socially mature, increasing your likability, being more effective in relating and dealing with others in all social spheres, and much more.

As with any life skills you need to understand and practice it. In Just Listen, Mark Goulston’s helpful book, we find six steps to making another person feel “felt.”  As he says, it’s rather simple to do.  All it takes is intentional practice.  The following portion is excerpted from his book (Kindle locations 964-1013):


Attach an emotion to what you think the other person is feeling, such as “frustrated,” “angry,” or “afraid.”


Say, “I’m trying to get a sense of what you’re feeling and I think it’s ________. . .” and fill in an emotion. “Is that correct? If it’s not, then what are you feeling?”  Wait for the person to agree or correct you.


Then say, “How frustrated (angry, upset, etc.) are you?”  Give the person time to respond.  Be prepared, at least initially, for a torrent of emotions—especially if the person you’re talking with is holding years of pent-up frustration, anger, or fear inside.  This is not the time to fight back or air your own grievances.


Next, say, “And the reason you’re so frustrated (angry, upset, etc.) is because. . . ?” Again, let the person vent.


Then say, “Tell me—what needs to happen for that feeling to feel better?”


Next, ask “What part can I play in making that happen? What part can you play in making that happen?”

Wrap up

Making someone “feel felt” simply means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.  When you succeed, you can change the dynamics of a relationship in a heartbeat.  At that instant, instead of trying to get the better of each other, you “get” each other and that breakthrough can lead to cooperation, collaboration, and effective communication.


Helpful stuff! Try it out and then in the comment section why not tell me how you feel about it?

~Dr. Don