Feeling understood

90% of the solution to what you want is simply to have people recognize your desire and maybe even satisfy it. Will you express yourself?


Their crypto product never lacked investors. Profit surged even when they did nothing but buy and sell tokens and the business would continue growing, printing money if only they wouldn't fight all the time. Dan and Kate founded the startup 18 months earlier. They managed their relationship well but problems began when they took upon themselves more and more directions of development, committed to more clients, and the burden made them tense and exhausted. when the VC whom they trusted asked them to talk to me as a personal favor they agreed.

I told them that the purpose of the meeting is that they come out feeling understood, that the other knows what they feel, what they want, and what they are going through. The rules of the exercise are simple. Each of them tells the other what hurts him in the following format: "when you do this it makes me feel that." The other needs to respond: "I understand that when I do this it makes you feel that" Sounds simple right? The difficulties arise in the second exercise when they needed to describe the pain of the other in deeper terms.

The knee-jerk reaction is to avoid it. The founders think to themselves: "Why would I want to exaggerate the pain I'm supposedly causing? why would I want to incriminate myself? but the acknowledgment of the feeling does not mean taking the blame, yet hearing the other recognizing my pain as deeper than I expressed it makes me feel closer to him. Kate asked that Dan would be the first.

Dan said: "when you tell me what to do in an authoritative tone, for example: return the mail to the client! it makes me feel that I'm treated as an employee". I stopped Kate when she tried to explain, defend herself, and especially blame him for the way he makes her feel I reminded both of them of the exercise and reminded her that she was the one who asked Dan to start.

She responded, "When I tell you what to do you feel angry and disappointed". This deepening did not make him feel recognized. She was still hesitant about incriminating herself about making him feel... humiliated! when she was finally able to say it he felt calm.

Now it was her turn. "When you leave me alone with all the responsibility for the little details in the office I feel you're not responsible, that you're not a partner. I feel it is too much for me." He was also not quick to recognize the deepness of her pain. He said "frustrated... angry" but he didn't make her feel understood are about her feeling alone with all the responsibility. We continued a few more rounds. She understood that when she calls him irresponsible he feels humiliated, lost, and helpless when he is already doing the best that he can. He understood that when he is not together with her in the chores, she feels lonely and unappreciated. Like a kid who when he falls and hurts his knee, he cries only once his mother empathically kisses him next to the wound, both of them were emotional when their pain was recognized by the other. This could happen only once they dropped their fear of blame.

What didn't happen? They didn't agree on the facts, they didn't reach a common interpretation of reality and they didn't agree on an action plan. What did happen? They stopped being afraid of self-blame and the happiness of the other became just as important as their own. They took it upon themselves to act in a way that will not make the other feel humiliated lost lonely or unappreciated. My eye did not stay dry either

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