Data, Judgments and Feelings

In resolving conflict, it is useful to separate or parse the active elements involved in the conflict. These elements can be broken into four groups:

  • Data – the facts of the situation. The “objective truth” that can be easily agreed upon. An example would be, “The temperature outside is 60 degrees” or “We have $2,000 in our bank account.”
  • Judgments – the thoughts and beliefs I have about the situation. Judgments are not data and judgments are not feelings. Using the data examples, judgments would be “It’s cold outside” and “We are running out of money”. These are personal interpretations of the data. Some people may consider 60 degrees to be relatively warm while others consider it to be quite cold. And some people may be overjoyed to have $2,000 in the bank, but to others, having only $2,000 may be terrifying.
  • Feelings – the emotions passing through my body. Feelings are always transient (they come and go) and they always reside in my body, not my head. I may feel happy that it’s 60 degrees out or I may feel sad because I was hoping for warmer weather.

In my men’s circles, we have a process we call a “Clearing” which helps us become clear on what is going on inside. We use this process when one man has a “Charge” with another man. By separating the elements of the charge into specific categories, we can focus on what is really going on. In some cases, the data is wrong. If you show up at 12:30 for a lunch meeting that I believe we had scheduled for 12:00, simply hearing that it was at 12:30 on your calendar may (or may not) be enough to resolve the problem. If, on hearing that I had incorrect data, I still have a charge, then my charge is most likely associated with some event in the past that impacted me in a negative way and that I haven’t fully dealt with. This is called “Projection” and is one of our most powerful defense mechanisms.

Projection, simply put, is me “projecting” on you a belief about myself that I haven’t adequately dealt with. It is in shadow – I want to hide, repress or deny this belied. The Clearing process is an excellent tool for identifying the source of this belief and realizing that projection is happening.

A number of years ago, I was leading a training in Vancouver, BC. One of my leader team members arrived at the meeting very angry about one of the meeting participants. I asked him, “Where are you on the triangle right now?” He responded that he understood in his head that this was his stuff (i.e. he was triggered), but he was still angry. By working the process of separating data (facts), judgments (beliefs) and feelings (sensations in his body), he was able to realize fully that his anger came from an ancient childhood wound that he had hidden away in his unconscious.

Bob Jones

I live in two worlds: my head and my heart. My head world involves computer programming while my heart world lives in connecting deeply with people all over the world and in teaching people to connect more deeply and authentically.

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