Monday, March 04, 2013

Feel Want Willing

Another response to a Joanne Jacobs blog post, this one called 'To fix college, ban ‘I feel’'

When I was working for Texas Instruments I took a number of courses at their learning centre (Job Entry Subsystem, Multiple Virtual Storage, fun stuff like that). One of the courses was a communications course called "On the Way Up."

The central theme of this course was a communications methodology called "feel-want-willing". Basically, it encouraged you to express your needs in three steps:
- feel - describe the problem you face in terms of how it makes you feel
- want - state what you want as a way to resolve the problem
- willing - state what you are willing to do in order to achieve what you want

The first stage isn't empty. It tells the other person how the problem is affecting you, developing a sense of urgency and empathy. The idea is that if the other person sees the consequence of the problem, and not just the symptoms, they can respond with something that solves the underlying issue, and not just the symptoms.

Why is this important? If you skip the first stage - or can't express what it is that really bothers you about something - your communications with others become just a repeated set of "I want I want" statements. The other person, if they care what you want at all, tries one after another band-aid solution without ever solving the problem.

I know there's a whole school of thought out there that thinks "I feel" is self-indulgent and inefficient, and should be banned from education altogether.

But from my perspective, this would result in a generation of students who do not understand how to solve problems, express business needs, or satisfy customers.

Because despite the way we objectively measure need, means and motive in today's economy, the driving force behind any enterprise, whether it be physics or rental cars, is meeting the needs, as expressed by the feelings, of some person.

People may be objectively hungry, but what makes them eat is that they feel hungry. Ignoring this fundamental reality makes students not merely bad students, but bad employees and bad business-people.