Warm and Fuzzies, or What Really Matters

by | May 8, 2024

It was during our debrief call the topic came up. “She didn’t really like the warm and fuzzy stuff you talked about…”

Come again? I was confused — neither my work nor me are normally described as warm or fuzzy.

“The part when you talk about the feeling and the fixing.”

Oh — got it, the feel before fix.

Then I remembered. During the workshop, when we were discussing the Feel before Fix concept, there was a participant who was not down.

The concept is to acknowledge out loud how the person is feeling before you jump in to solve, give advice, or fix the problem. This is known in some circles, and by some, I mean all circles, as empathy.

“I don’t want to hear any of that,” she proclaimed during the workshop. “I just want someone to get to the point, to solve my problem. I don’t care about any of that. I just want answers.”

“Cool,” I responded, “I get that. Would you be OFFENDED if someone said a quick, “That’s so exhausting, I’m sure you’re over the call center runaround.’?”

“Well no, I wouldn’t be offended.”

Let’s face it. Most people wouldn’t be.

Let’s face it. Understanding and feeling heard is precisely what most people want.

Let’s face it, normally, we get what that lady wants. Answers or fixes or advice that sound like this:

I’m sorry that happened…

We apologize for that inconvenience…

Unfortunately, our policy states that…

We can’t get to that today…

You’re going to have to…

Let me tell you what I would do…

When you read those phrases, what’s your reaction? What are you noticing? Are your shoulders raising? Is your stomach clenching? Is your fist clenching? (Maybe extreme.)

These are part of the glossary of phrases I refer to as The Human Helium Tank — the phrases that we say and hear as quick responses to our problems. We say them with the best intentions, but the results can be the opposite.

The Human Helium Tank refers to the proverbial red balloon we all have waving above our heads at any point in time, filled with our stuff. The good, the bad, the ugly, the things that can get us going.

When we deflate the air out of the balloon by venting or explaining a situation and hear a quick “sorry”, whooooosh, there goes that air up in that balloon again.

Because I don’t feel heard. I don’t feel like you care. When I feel like that, I very well might just rant some more. I very well might just ask for an upgrade or something for free. I very well might discuss your business with a friend and say don’t go there; they don’t care.

Or, we can feel before we fix.

A quick, “That is so aggravating,” “This system is so confusing,” “I get it,” “Dang, that sucks,” is all it takes to make me feel heard.

When we acknowledge the feeling first, my shoulders drop. Then, I am willing to hear what you have to say, and we can move on.

The thing is, when we feel before we fix, working under the premise that the majority of humans want to feel heard and understood, the fixing goes away. The need to solve all of the problems goes away.

Less work for us.

Less filling up your balloons.

Less responsibility we need to take on.

Less pressure to come up with an answer.

If you DO need to come up with an answer, people are more ready to hear it because you showed them you cared.

I want it fixed, and I want to feel heard. I want to know you care.

For those outliers like my lady in my workshop who think “people don’t want that” and “people don’t need that”…well, I’d argue perhaps they could use it.

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