That Touchy Feely Stuff
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:10
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path To Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we uncover what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, welcome back to another episode.
Marsha Clark 0:26
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:27
Yes, I'm wondering how many of our listeners are already nervous about today's topic just by looking at the title on their podcast, on their podcast player, "That Touchy-Feely Stuff".
Marsha Clark 0:39
Yes, I'm betting that some are so nervous that they may not even be listening to us today.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:44
Wow, or the guys are like, nope, not that episode! Okay.
Marsha Clark 0:50
I get that it's, you know, talking about feelings can be uncomfortable and intimidating for lots of people. And yet it's crucial for us as leaders, and I think especially as women leaders, to understand the impact and the power of emotions on the dynamics of relationships, how we do work and work together and creating results. And so that's what we're going to explore today. And we're going to try to mitigate some of those negative connotations that come with talking about that touchy-feely stuff.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:20
Yes. So I actually looked up the phrase "touchy-feely" in an online dictionary just to see how it's officially defined. And I was surprised at how negative even the description was. So I Googled a few other definitions. And here's a couple of them. Cambridge Dictionary started out pretty nice with "kind and loving". And then it added, "especially by touching and holding people more than is usual, often in a way that makes other people feel uncomfortable".
Marsha Clark 1:53
It sounds like sexual harassment to me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:54
Exactly. So that led me over into thinking about Ted Bundy. That isn't good. So the College Dictionary defined it in this way: "If you describe something as touchy-feely, you mean that it involves people expressing emotions, such as love and affection openly". Okay, that's a good start. But then it went on to add "in a way which you find embarrassing and silly". So is this phrase "touchy-feely", is it that it has such a bad rap or is it the actual sharing and expressing of emotions that has a bad rap, especially to the people at the Cambridge Dictionary and the College Dictionary?
Marsha Clark 2:37
Well, I'm fascinated by those definitions because you've done something I've never done. But thank you for finding those. And we used the title, "That Touchy- Feely Stuff", because it does conjure up, you know it's one more of those provocative things that we like to talk about. In a way the phrase does have some charge to it, for sure. I mean, there's no doubt about that. And I know when the phrase, at least when I first heard it, was making its rounds around my corporate environment, you know, back in the 80s, and 90s, it was definitely intended to be derogatory and derisive and so I'm not surprised by the definitions you found. And in fact, I often heard leaders say, check your feelings at the door, you know, like we're not supposed to have feelings when we're at work. And I think people who use that phrase, you know, especially early on, were speaking from that place of discomfort, and maybe even fear, because the open expression of emotions felt, you know, a little bit like the Wild West. And that's part of why I wanted to use the phrase very deliberately, and not only take the sting out of talking about and managing our emotions, but also to talk about how to harness that energy with our teams. Because I think, here's what I'll tell you about women. Touchy- feely might mean too close or too personal or crying. And so people are scared to death when women cry, and don't know what to do with it. So and that's not just bosses and colleagues, that's husbands and fathers. Yes. And so there's a part of that that comes with it. And so often when we talk about touchy-feely or emotions, that's often what we're referring to and that's where the negative comes from. And Wendi, before we jump in completely, I also want to offer I'll say a definition of my own, not of touchy- feely but of that word, "emotion", you know, again, which is at the crux of being touchy- feely. And so, what I invite our listeners to do is to reframe and reclaim the word emotion. So let's break it down into two parts. Emotion equals energy, the E part in motion, energy in motion. Emotions drive us, they drive us to achieve, to challenge, to savor and to appreciate. And emotions compel and connect us.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:03
I've really loved the reframing of the word emotion, "energy in motion" seems so much more positive and something that you'd want more of. So why do you think that the phrase "touchy-feely stuff" and talking about emotions has such a bad rap? Especially in professional circles? Like, why would a boss say to you check your emotions at the door? Yeah.
Marsha Clark 5:27
Yeah. So I think it makes sense to maybe unpack the question from a couple of different angles. So first, let's challenge the myth, if you will, so to speak, that emotions are difficult to talk about. I want to give us a different frame to explore that assumption. So we're going to do that, then we'll dig a little deeper into why some people are more comfortable than others when feelings enter the conversation.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:51
So are you saying that it's a myth that people don't like talking about feelings?
Marsha Clark 5:56
Well, yes and no. So here's what I've concluded after quite honestly, decades of leading, and coaching and teaching people all around the world. So here's my view and what the research says. People are emotional creatures. We just are, and having feelings and being aware of having feelings really is fundamentally tied to the human condition that each of us are living every day. And also, outside of the influence of mind-altering substances, people are going to experience a range of emotions on any given day, happy, sad, glad, mad, whatever it might be. And then also the degree to which people experience emotions, the intensity of those emotions, they're going to differ based on a variety of factors that include the situation, you know, where are they, you know, who are they with, and what's happening. They're also based on the mental, physical and emotional state at the time, not only yours, but the person on the other side of that interaction, their emotional intelligence or EQ (and we're going to touch on that in a few minutes, how emotionally intelligent am I?), and then the culture that they identify with. And so there's a whole host of factors that are going to play into the expression of emotions. And some of those are both acceptable and unacceptable. And so that's why I say it's yes and no when it comes to the question of people's comfort level talking about those feelings. And the myth connection is that people can be and often are perfectly okay with the expression of emotion. And we'll even almost eagerly spend time talking about it, and this is important, when they think the expression is acceptable. And so once someone's expression of emotion slides into the unacceptable end of the scale, that's when people start to get uncomfortable, and they pull out the phrase like "touchy-feely" to try and shut the conversation down.
Okay, so hold on a second. Who is deciding what's acceptable versus unacceptable emotion? Expression? Right, right, right.
You know, that's the million dollar question. And so, let me let me kind of walk through an example. So anybody who knows me knows I'm a huge football, pro football fan and American football version of that, and Dallas Cowboys in particular. And I love pretty much everything about the game. And you know, one of the things that I love about the game is the intensity of emotion that shows up during a game, and the intensity of those emotions are the players, the coaches, the fans, you know, the referees, everybody has strong emotion about that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 8:46
Yeah. And I'm thinking that could be true for a lot of competitive events, right, I mean, no matter which sport we're talking about.
Marsha Clark 8:51
Absolutely, yeah, virtually any sport. And for that matter you can see it happen in musical performances or dance recitals where there's competition of any sort, so pretty much anywhere that you can experience raw, real emotion. And that's what I'm highlighting for, you know, this example. So, for our listeners, just think about a scenario where people are being incredibly authentic. They're laying everything on the line and pouring out every ounce of energy they have right in front of you, putting it all into their their singing, putting it all into their dancing, putting it all into their piano playing, putting it all into their whatever sporting event. And, you know, in this scenario or example that I'm sharing with you, you're all in it as well. Maybe it's a teammate, a colleague, an observer, a fan, a parent. And I want to pause for just a minute and give our listeners, think of a scenario that works for you right now.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:50
Marsha Clark 9:51
So, you've got one Wendi? All right. So in your scenario, what emotions are being displayed? What energy is in motion in your situation?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:01
So in my situation, it was September of 2017, I believe, yes, September of 2017. It was the season opening gala at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Yo-Yo Ma was the featured performer. And he played a piece, and I was astounded at the fact that he smiled the most genuine smile that I've ever seen on another human being during the entire song, one particular piece that he played. And his body language and expression that came through, it came through the instrument through into the music and out into the audience. I mean, I was practically in tears during the whole piece. It was just gorgeous.
Marsha Clark 10:59
I love that. And so he was showing emotion and you were feeling the emotion, right? So in that situation, which of these emotions would you say are appropriate and which ones aren't?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:10
Well, I was embarrassed that I was crying. Okay. So I don't think that my emotions were necessarily appropriate. I feel appropriate is kind of the wrong word. I think that there were a lot of people in the crowd probably reacting the same way that I was, but it was like we all wanted to stand up and give the standing ovation throughout the whole song, which would have ruined the song. So it may be appropriate, maybe inappropriate to react that way. But it felt it was the authentic reaction. It was real.
Marsha Clark 11:47
Yeah, it was uncensored, unfiltered. It was me letting my emotions, you know my energy be in motion, and the appropriateness is often in the intensity of what's going on. So you know, if a tear's trickling down my cheek, it's one thing. If I'm sobbing, it's inappropriate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:11
Right, it's inappropriate.
Marsha Clark 12:13
And that's a part of what makes this topic so fascinating. At some fundamental level, people feel what they feel. I mean, so when others judge and label someone else's feelings as inappropriate, they're projecting or overlying their own, whether you call it personal, social, cultural biases on that other person. Here, we are projecting onto another person again. And I'm sure you've heard someone say, ''Oh, you shouldn't feel that way" to someone else, or even to you.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:39
Oh yes, yes. "I didn't mean it that way". "You shouldn't take it that way. It's not personal, it's only business."
Marsha Clark 12:44
Right. Yeah. All those phrases. So often it's said in an attempt to be supportive or to come across as sympathetic. But it's pretty much the opposite of either supportive or sympathetic. And I think we may have said this in another episode, but it bears repeating and I think especially in this scenario. When we tell people how they should feel or what they should do, it's when we're imposing our values and opinions on that other person. And you've heard me say this many times, Wendi, about the word "should".
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:16
Yes. Don't should on others.
Marsha Clark 13:19
Right. And don't should on yourself. Right. Right. Right. Because the word "should" is "could" with shame on it. That sticks with me so deeply. And "could" is about choices and options. And there's power and freedom in that word. But when you layer that shame, or should, that obligation, that judgment on top of it, that's when the freedom is eroded or goes away.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:46
Yes, exactly. And now I hear it every time someone uses the word should. And it's even like a phrase in my household, my husband says to me all the time, "Stop shoulding on yourself". And, you know, I literally think of the other person's power or my power being stripped away. And most of the time, it's me stripping away my own. I'm telling myself, I should have done this. I should have done that. And it's jarring.
Marsha Clark 14:12
Well that "stripping away", just the phrase, you know, is a powerful image and quite painfully accurate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 14:19
Yes. So let's circle back on this for a minute. If people are, as you said, emotional creatures at our core and we feel what we feel, why do you think people are so uncomfortable talking about feelings or emotions? I mean, if feelings are so natural, why isn't it more natural to talk about them or be more accepting of them?
Marsha Clark 14:43
Yeah, those are really good questions. And you know, the comfort level that people have with sharing their feelings or being around other people as they're sharing theirs, is highly influenced by personality styles, psychological needs, social conditioning. And that social conditioning can be within their families or you know, whatever societal cultures or organizational cultures they're living and working in. And, I'm sure our listeners have all had an experience where, or many have had this experience, where they grew up in a household or a family system where there were rules, whether they were explicitly stated or not, of what was an acceptable level for emotional display. I remember when I used to cry, my parents would say snub it up. And that meant stop crying. So it's inappropriate to cry, right? So whether your family was on the reserved more controlled end of the continuum, or at the more demonstrative highly expressive end, you know the family system played a huge role in what any one of us consider normal and acceptable levels of emotional responses. And, then what would happen is that person would venture out into the world, right, outside of the family home or the family system and you know, could be at school or friend's house or you know, even other relatives. And if that group, whatever that group might be, operated at a different point on the emotional expression scale, there would be an inevitable culture clash. And what had been completely normalized in their close circle would feel very foreign to them in this new different cultural environment.
It makes so much sense.
Yeah, yeah. So we recognize it more easily when we we come across very visible cultural differences. So if you know people from different national cultures, they may celebrate different holidays, they may have different customs, dress, food, and so on. But people don't all always realize the role social or cultural conditioning plays in something as internal as the expression or the suppression of emotions. And here's where the main point comes in. What we're familiar with and what we consider normal is what we unconsciously expect of others, without taking into consideration how they're normal might be entirely different. And, and yet, it's just as valid as your normal.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 17:07
I mean, that's pretty much the foundation for a lot of your work, helping people gain a deeper self awareness of what they consider normal, and then recognize how their worldview is probably different than others.
Marsha Clark 17:23
I will tell you in some of our previous podcasts, we talked about the power of stories. And it's not until we hear other stories that we begin to understand where some of these differences are. So yes, this is absolutely foundational to the work that we do. It's coaching, the programs. It's a dominant theme in my book, "Embracing Your Power", it ties to that authenticity peace. And it's a primary reason why I use so many different assessments in my work. It really is to help people gain more clarity and self awareness around that deeply embedded thinking as it relates to our preferences, our behaviors, our needs. And the value of these assessments not only provides that interior window into our own thinking and styles, but also shows us that there are other ways of thinking and showing up in the world, and that our way isn't the only way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:15
Yes, such good points. I mean, you mentioned assessments as being helpful tools for our listeners to better understand themselves and the people around them. Do you have any particular assessments that you like when it comes to better understanding our emotions?
Marsha Clark 18:32
Yeah I do have a couple I'd love to share. It's based on you know, the research and the best practices that we've reviewed over 20 plus years. And one that I've been using for a very long time, I learned about it in my master's graduate program at at American University, and I found the results to be, and the whole premise of the of the tool, so fascinating and chose to include it in the Power of Self Program. And even though we've made tweaks and adjustments over the years that this tool was always an integral part of our curriculum. And the tool is called the FIRO-B based on the work of Will Schutz. And we run this assessment, have them do pre-work, with our clients. And we also offer a half day workshop. Just to begin to dig deeper into the results and sum up the power of that tool in just a few minutes, it is a challenge, but I'm going to give it my best shot.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:30
Very good. Okay. Our listeners will be very intrigued by this assessment because it's probably the only one that they likely haven't been exposed to.
Marsha Clark 19:39
Yeah, because a lot of organizations use assessments. You're right. But this one has not been as widely used. It comes in and out of fashion, if you will, as some of the other assessments. And that's partly one of the reasons that I like it because of what it explores. So the FIRO-B stands for Fundamental Interpersonal Relationships Orientation, FIRO, and the B stands for Behaviors. So these are the things that show up as we're trying to get those fundamental interpersonal needs met. So according to Will Schutz's research, and we'll be talking more about this in the future when we're again after book two comes out and we're talking about groups, but Will's research in theory was that human beings have three core or fundamental interpersonal needs. And these three are 1) inclusion, 2) control and 3) openness or as he originally called it, affection. And so in addition to measuring those three needs of inclusion, control and openness, the assessment reflects our needs in terms of how much we want others to demonstrate the behaviors to us, how much I want others to include me, how open I want others to be with me, and also how much we express them. How inclusive am I? How much do I want to be in control? How open am I willing to be?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 21:08
So for the purposes of our conversation today, on the "touchy-feely stuff", how can the FIRO-B assessment help our listeners better understand their feelings or emotions?
Marsha Clark 21:20
Yeah, so it helps in a couple of different ways. So feelings drive our behaviors. So it can be incredibly helpful to recognize how my own behaviors around these three areas, openness, and the impact that that can have on my relationships. And for example, significance is the underlying feeling for inclusion. How significant do I think you are, how significant do you think I am? And am I significant enough for you to include me? That's really important in relationships. So getting clear on my willingness and comfort level to be more vulnerable and open with other people can help me better understand why it might be easier or harder for me to build trusting relationships. And that's even more important when I recognize that my underlying needs might be very different than those of the people I lead. Maybe it's my colleagues, my boss or my customers, as well as my team. And it's that awareness of 1) my own fundamental needs and 2) those of others around me that can really unlock some mysteries around why we may be clashing, or at least not connecting. So if I'm highly inclusive I have high expressed inclusion, and you have low wanted inclusion, the fact that I invite you to meetings all the time drives you crazy but it certainly helps me get my needs met, right? So that's that clash that kind of clash.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:41
Yes. Yeah. It's reminding me of an Instagram post that's going around, especially during the holiday time of year, of I want to be invited to everything but I will show up to nothing. You know, that thing.
Marsha Clark 22:55
That is exactly right. It is the act of being invited that meets my inclusion needs. It is not showing up.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:01
That's right. Yes. So this is such a unique tool and so enlightening. And you mentioned you have two favorites. So what's the other tool you really like for diving deeper into understanding emotions and feelings?
Marsha Clark 23:14
Yeah, so my other favorite assessment is a new addition to the toolkit that we're building all the time and helping others. And it comes from Lumina Learning. They have an entire suite of tools and this particular one is called Lumina Emotion. And that assessment measures emotional agility across eight different qualities. They are the qualities of resilient, even tempered, modest, vigilant, responsive, impassioned, confident, and optimistic. Are those great feelings?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:53
Marsha Clark 23:53
Their tools are some of the most comprehensive and thorough that I've seen on the market. And, you know, let's be honest, I've been doing this a long time. And I love that their tool also describes us in three ways. They call them personas, our underlying self, which is I describe it as who we are in the morning before we have coffee and get dressed, right, put our makeup on, the core us. Then there's our everyday self, who do I show up as when I get to the office or I'm out in public in some way, and I'm likely dialing up or dialing down some of those underlying attributes, if you will. And then our overextended self, which is who are we and who do we become when we're in stress or pressure situations, useful information because we're not the same all the time. So we've actually stopped using one of the more traditional personality assessments in our programs and shifted to Lumina's Spark Assessment for this foundational work and the emotional tool is then an even deeper dive into that world of emotions and very powerful content. And if you don't know about this I really encourage you to take a look at it, and you can find them at Lumina Learning.com.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:09
Well, I want to just say that I think it's brilliant to use a tool that thinks about the three ways that we actually do show up almost on a daily basis, our true selves, our everyday self, ie the mask and the armor that we put on in order to go and do the expected battle of the day, and then our over-extended self. And I get stressed out, I'm frazzled every which way from Sunday, and you just did something and you danced on my last nerve and now I'm screaming at you. You know, that recognizing that, though that underlying feeling and position in the world, if you will, what's going on with me, things that have been affecting me from the outside, can also, do so deeply affect my emotions. Yes. And how quickly they can shift. That's what I love is that if you acknowledge that you have an underlying self and everyday self and an overextended self, you know, it may just take 24 hours to get from overextended back to every day or overextended back to the underlying. So I just wanted to put that out there. I think that's so powerful.
Marsha Clark 26:29
I agree with you. I think assessments help us see ourselves and help us see others. And, you know, the belief that the human condition is also about everybody wants to be heard, seen and valued. And by doing these kinds of tools, you have that ability.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:47
Right. Okay. And so there's Lumina Learning.com for one assessment. And if people want to take the FIRO-B assessment, where can they go?
Marsha Clark 26:54
They can contact us at Marsha Clark and Associates.com. and we can set them up individually because I do it some with my individual coaching clients, or we can do it as a team. And we can run a workshop too, because there's lots of great activities that support a deeper learning about those three needs of inclusion, control and openness.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:13
Excellent, excellent. Okay. So I know there's one other tool you really like that helps people when it comes to being able to identify and share their feelings with others. So let's, let's talk about this last tool.
Marsha Clark 27:24
Yeah. So the last tool is about identifying our feelings and being able to articulate and name them. And I have a fun story that goes with this one. And it all ties back to the idea that some people, not all people, are more naturally inclined to be open about sharing their feelings, partly because again, personality style, social systems, cultures, and so on and interestingly enough, partly because of their vocabulary for describing their feelings or not, right? They have the words or they don't have the words. So if you think about it, it's pretty hard to share your feelings if you don't have the words to describe what they are.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:03
Marsha Clark 28:05
So very early in our Women's Leadership Program, I mean, I think it was actually in our very first cohort group 21 years ago, one of our team members, Denise Renter, she's part of our staff and who had helped us develop the program, noticed that some of the women in the program were struggling to find the right words to describe what was going on for them, and especially in moments where the deeper emotions were being explored and expressed by other women. And they were captivated by the stories, but then when it came their turn, they didn't know what to say. So it's as if some women showed up in the program equipped, and I love this analogy, like the big box of emotional crayons. Remember that big box of 64 crayons?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:49
Oh, yes, with the sharpener on the box!
Marsha Clark 28:52
Yes, that's right. I mean, everybody wanted one of those! So that was big time. So there were different shades and colors that you could use to add depth and richness to whatever it was you were drawing or coloring. Well, some women came to the program with a deep and rich variety of words so that they can get to that additional dimension, if you will. And they can describe how they were feeling, and really in any given moment. And in contrast, there were some other women who didn't have that same big box, right? Their crayon boxes were smaller and had fewer options. So it's like the eight box right, which is what you get at the restaurants to color the coloring. Yeah, because that's what they grew up with and they didn't even realize that there were more options out there.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 29:40
That's such a great metaphor. I mean, nobody wanted the little sad eight crayon box. Everyone wanted the 64 with the sharpener.
Marsha Clark 29:48
That's right. And, you know, it really does begin to explain that difference. And you know I will tell you, to be honest, we were a little surprised when we first started to notice it happening. And I really give Denise credit for being the one to come up with the solution.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:02
Why were you surprised by the difference of how different women showed up, some with eight crayon boxes and some with 64?
Marsha Clark 30:09
So part of the belief came from, and quite honestly was repeatedly reinforced by the research that we followed regarding language and gender study. In one of our very favorite classroom tools, we showed a movie from the Discovery Channel that highlighted the work of the renowned anthropologist, Helen Fisher. And she was studying gender differences in primitive cultures, and particularly the Hadza tribe located in Tanzania. And Helen's film crew followed her on a visit to the tribe, and she did this annually. And this tribe has been identified as one of the oldest tribes in the world dating back more than 100,000 years.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:09
Marsha Clark 30:09
Yes. So Helen's research was centered on their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and the very distinct separation of the responsibilities among the men and the women of the tribe. And they still live that today, because the other part of this is that they most closely resemble what was happening oh, so many thousands of years ago. So she was introducing us, you know, as the audience to the members of the tribe. And she called out that women's predominant use of language was part of their role of keeping the tribe alive and thriving. And I love the way she put it, "Words were women's tools". And she explained that women needed words to teach, to cajole or influence, to share information on where the best plants and berries were for medicines, and so on. And so words as tools was such a strong image for me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:56
Yes, I remember that scene where she says, "It doesn't take a lot of words to hit a buffalo over the head".
Marsha Clark 32:03
That's right, or a saber toothed tiger, or a wooley mammoth or whatever it was, something along those lines. So she was explaining how the men's innate abilities to track objects over a long distance and their higher risk-taking tendencies made them natural hunters. But that language, at least not verbal language, that wasn't their tool, their primary tool. So now if we wind that back to our original point about the emotional crayon boxes, it was research like that, as well as our own experiences in the corporate world, that led us to erroneously assume that all women were naturally more emotionally expressive, and that they had a vocabulary that would enable that expression of those emotions. So we were learning right along with our participants when we discovered that wasn't universally true. And in fact, it was almost the opposite.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:56
So what do you mean by that?
Marsha Clark 32:58
So it was fascinating to observe these women, but they were high achievers working at top levels of leadership in their organizations. And they were struggling to identify and verbalize how they were feeling. And it brings us full circle to the beginning of the podcast. Why is it that people struggle with talking about feelings? Well, for many of the women in our programs, it was a factor of upbringing. They grew up in families and cultures where feelings weren't outwardly discussed or expressed. Or they grew up in environments where emotions were explosive and bordered on dangerous. So they retreated into an internal safety zone, you know, where they didn't add fuel to the fire by contributing to the volatility of the emotional display. And just as we've often heard the words "you shouldn't feel that way", well, that makes us question and deny our feelings and not explore them, or "don't take it personally", or, you know, "stop crying" or "snub it up" or whatever it might be. So I think that's all part of it, too. So in some cases, these were incredibly talented women who relied on and were rewarded for their intellect. So they discounted the emotions as irrelevant, or even worse, maybe even contrary to achieving results. You know, you can't be emotional. You can't acknowledge that you're feeling sad or scared or frustrated. And so they didn't understand that powerful connection between emotions and human motivation. And they didn't have the benefit of seeing how those emotions harnessed that energy in motion. So no wonder that many of these highly successful women, quite honestly most of them operating in male-dominated industries, right, had little to no experience connecting with or communicating about their emotions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 34:48
So how did you break through all of that history and conditioning?
Marsha Clark 34:53
Yeah, it's a lot. 100,000 years and that's a little bit of history. So that's where Denise Renter came to the rescue. Her daughter was in elementary school at the time, and I believe, you know, she brought home this list of feeling words, as I remember. And so the list was intended to help the children use their words, do we hear parents say that, use your words, to work through tough feelings instead of other less productive approaches like shutting down totally and going quiet, or acting out having a temper tantrum. So the parallel instantly hit Denise and she saw the very same behaviors happening in our program, maybe not the acting out, but for sure the shutting down part, but I don't know what to say soo I'll say nothing. And she recognized that for some women, that it was the lack of vocabulary to describe how they were feeling that was preventing them from really participating and fully contributing to the group. So Denise proposed that we add the list, this list of feeling words, to the program content, and it was an instant hit. And it was so gratifying to watch the women light up as they added this new rich list of words to their own emotional vocabulary. And it really wasn't as much the list of words as it was access, really, to the emotions that were represented on that page.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:16
Exactly. Talk more about that.
Marsha Clark 36:20
So let's go back to our crayon box metaphor. On one level, I can tell someone who has only known and used eight crayons because that's, you know, the only box that they were exposed to and that they were ever really given. And they might have even seen other pictures with more colors, but without having access to those crayons, it was still a bit of a mystery. And so the next level of understanding is explaining to them that they're actually more crayons possible and telling them about the other colors but without giving them access to the bigger box. So it just seems like something other people can do, or have access to, but not me. And then the next level is to give them a box of crayons, the bigger box of crayons. And that's what happened with the list of feeling words. So not only did they have the vocabulary, but they realized that these words really represented nuances or shades of emotions that they had indeed felt, but had no words to describe until they got that list. And it was more than the words, it was the ability to identify and label the complexity of emotions that they had felt, perhaps all their lives, but they were never able to clarify and articulate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:38
Wow, that just gives me goosebumps. Really.
Marsha Clark 37:40
It does me too. And because what an opening, what a new set of possibilities. And, you know, the tool, this list of feeling words, it wasn't something that was magical, or some highly vetted list of words, it came from an elementary school curriculum.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:57
Marsha Clark 37:57
I mean, think about that, the simplicity of that. And we loved it, we adopted it. And just for our listeners benefit, there are hundreds of lists out on the internet today. Because we're finally realizing you know, that this is important. Go do your own research on the feeling word list, and you'll see what comes up and find the one, the list that works for you.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 38:18
Yes, exactly. So simple, but so powerful.
Marsha Clark 38:22
Yeah, and I want to add one more story that I think is, again, powerful before we end today. So we introduced the list of feeling words in our first cohort program, and so along the next year comes the second program. And we handed it out to the participants fairly early on in the program. And one of the women was a high-level executive at a very big global tech company that manufactures computer chips, among other things. And this woman had her MBA from Harvard and she was a superstar. She was a high, high, high potential at her company. So we hand up the feeling words one day, and she is just enamored and entranced by this list. And so she recognized the opportunity to not only become far more fluent, or literate, if you will, in her own emotional intelligence vocabulary, but she saw the immediate application to relating more deeply and authentically with her young children that were young at the time. And so that list became one of her favorite tools from the entire program so much so that even years later when we would bring her back and invite alums to come talk to new classes, and when one of the participants would ask the alums for their top tools, the feeling words list was always at the top of her list. I'm not kidding you, she would pull out her leather portfolio with her writing pad and all that stuff that we used to carry around, and she had a laminated version of the list that was tucked into the side pocket. And she even told the story where when she would come out of a meeting and it maybe it hadn't gone well or maybe it had gone swimmingly well, she would pull out her list and say, "How am I feeling right now?" And she would, you know, go down the list, and she would point to the word and it helped her get in touch with that part of herself.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:09
That's amazing. I mean, it's sad that, that as somebody who's rather verbal myself, you know, but yet you've got to think about all the people who are left brain and analytical thinkers in addition to people who are not raised in emotional articulate households. That's difficult, and that's a powerful tool to keep in your toolkit around you all the time. That's really great.
Marsha Clark 40:37
And I will tell you something, I love to tell that story. And what I tell to my left brain analytical thinkers who want to kind of deny or diminish the power of emotions, is that emotions are data too, feelings are data too. And you're missing out on a whole lot of stuff if you're just focused on the pie chart or the graphs or the, you know, all of that, without understanding the passion in one's voice or the purposefulness of why they're offering what they're offering, or, you know, how strongly convicted they are about what there might be. You're missing out on the on the bulk of what's gonna make the difference or prompt them to make a certain decision. So feelings are data too.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 41:29
Oh, I love that. So besides "Feelings are data, too", what else do you want to make sure our listeners take away from today's exploration?
Marsha Clark 41:40
Yeah, so one thing is to not be afraid of the touchy-feely stuff and to recognize that the power of harnessing emotions or energy in motion relates to motivating and inspiring people. So it's a powerful tool in our toolkit. And second to also acknowledge that not everyone has the same level of comfort expressing their emotions nor do they have the same level of experience. And therefore, the confidence in identifying and speaking about emotions, as you know, it's not easy and present in everyone. So what can help there is to use some relevant assessment tools like the FIRO-B or the Lumina Emotion that can help with self awareness and help us build that vocabulary. And then finally, to be patient with people and extend some grace and support when it comes to helping them find the right words. And I say, you know, be patient and extend some grace to ourselves when we're having trouble expressing emotions, and especially if it's something that we're not accustomed to doing or used to doing. And the feeling words list is one way to do that. And we have that. We have a feeling words list at the back of the book in our appendix.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:49
That was going to be my next question. Where is it in the book? Okay, so back in the appendix. Okay, so any other last suggestion?
Marsha Clark 42:59
Yeah, one more. I've also found that it does help to ease the uncomfortableness of maybe exploring and discussing feelings by interjecting some, whether you call it subtle humor, or some lighthearted humor into the situation where appropriate. You know, I remember living in the corporate world in the years when there were Dilbert cartoons at the beginning of every slide presentation. And everybody said, "Does Dilbert work at my company?" because they were so spot on. And they were a great way to kind of poke fun at the awkwardness of some organizational dysfunction that always showed up and especially when we would try to talk about touchy-feely topics like emotions or authenticity. And you know, that went on for a while. And then somewhere in the mid 2000s, we had the introduction of one of my favorite television shows "The Office". And a great leader everyone likes to poke fun at, Michael Scott, at you know, at Dunder Mifflin expertly played by Steve Carell, the boss we love to, we love to, hate to love, we hate... I don't know what everybody said.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:07
Marsha Clark 44:09
I loved Steve Carell's character. So I'm gonna leave you with one of my favorite Michael Scott quotes related to emotional intelligence. And here's what he said: "Would I rather be feared or loved? Both! I want people to be afraid of how much they love me." Can't you see him saying that?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:29
Oh my gosh, that's hilarious. And yes, that's a great way to soften an otherwise challenging topic of you know, "Do you want to be feared or loved". Marsha, thank you so much for this deep dive into the topic of "That Touchy-Feely Stuff". It was a lot to cover but I really feel like this conversation flew by. It's a fascinating conversation to be sure, you know, trying to tap into emotion in order to be more powerful and be a more authentic leader, both with yourself and with others around you.
Marsha Clark 45:06
And not to discount feelings and not to deny feelings, but to feel them, to allow yourself to be present and feel them. You know, it's like I often think about we're willing to be more graceful with children. I'm sure a child is crying because they didn't get their way or whatever it might be and you say, "I understand that you're really upset right now". Well what if we, you know, offer that same grace and kindness to adults? We're in the same place. And we never sometimes never get to outgrow that. So you're most welcome for a great conversation today. Thank you for your great questions. And, again I hope our listeners, if they've got additional thoughts or comments or ideas about any of this, that they'll let us know about them. We'd love to hear from them. And thanks for being a listener today, and we hope you'll join us again next week. And as always, here's to women supporting women!