I love it when people tell me they’re being “rational” and not being “driven by emotions”. They do this particularly when they're trying to pretend that emotions don't belong in the work place.
I love it because it makes no sense.
We all are all the time. Whether you call them feelings or emotions they are a determining factor in your decision-making. All the time.
So What's a Feeling?
One definition of a “feeling” is a self-contained phenomenal experience. Feelings are subjective, evaluative, and independent of the sensations, thoughts, or images evoking them. One of the emotions is that they are functional states of the brain that provide causal explanations for certain complex behaviours. Both are notoriously hard to define (though see here for an interesting discussion: here) and the difference between the two words is even harder to define with any clarity.
In terms of the lived experience, whether someone is experiencing an emotion or feeling makes little difference.
So why does this matter?
Firstly, because you’re missing out on loads of useful information!
The key thing is that feelings are subjective, and emotions have a function, so whether we’re talking about what you feel or your emotion, it makes no sense to devalue them. If they’re subjective, then a) they matter to our lived experience (they’re telling us information about us) and b) given everyone feels them, we need to be aware of them to ensure we know when we’re including bias or assumption in arguments. If they’re functional, they’re serving a purpose.
People tend to believe they should discount feelings because they are “subjective”. So are thoughts. They’re embedded into our brains with a bunch of assumptions.
So when someone says it’s rational or they’re being rational, what they usually mean is at the present moment they aren’t conscious of any strong overriding feeling or emotional state that they cannot rationalize or ignore. It doesn’t mean that subjective experience hasn’t filtered into their thinking.
And what’s important about that?
Well, conflicts and disagreements in the workplace (and in general for that matter) tend to come from the focus of a conversation or a discussion being on the “logic” or the thinking behind something.
However, all dialogue (yes, all) also takes place on an emotional and feeling level, whether you’re conscious of it or not, specifically, the desire to have an experience or to avert it. Whether you do something or not is usually because your brain predicts it will feel a certain way.
They’re also the drivers behind your goals and the reasons things matter to you. You might be chasing that promotion at work because you don’t want to be seen as a failure. Why? Because being seen as a failure will result in feeling shame or inadequacy. It’s the avoidance of a specific feeling or sensation.
How come this is important?
If you’re in a conflict or a dialogue or feeling stressed about a specific goal or ambition you have, see if you can take a step back and work out the underlying emotions and feelings driving them. If you use this as a starting point, you might make some progress.