Feelings Detective

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By Mary Clements

It begins with curiosity and leads to connection and understanding. For those of you who have followed our newsletter for a while now, you have heard me talk about “Compassionate Communication” (also know as Non-Violent Communication) and the positive impacts it has had in making life more wonderful around here for myself and our team and students at Les Petites Pommes.

A quick recap for our new friends, developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, Compassionate Communication or NVC is a method that uses language and communication skills to create a framework from which you can:

  • Express your feelings and needs with clarity and self-responsibility
  • Listen to others’ feelings and needs with compassion and empathy
  • Facilitate mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties involved

Being a human interacting in the world, there is non-stop opportunity to practice this tool and is something I strive to model and pass on to our students.

Recently I was tutoring one of my grade 5 students who was resisting getting their work done, work I knew they were very capable of completing. They simply wouldn’t follow any instructions and were very frustrated. From this point of disconnect was a perfect opportunity for a game I made up (inspired by NVC) called “Feelings Detective”! Where once in this situation I might have tried a consequence and reward strategy, I now pause and transform into the detective!

The detective must lead with curiosity to discover what is alive for the other person, in this case, my student. When I play, I also use a set of cards that lists on one set, feelings and on the other set, needs. While it’s not necessary, the use of physical objects helps slow down the conversation and provides vocabulary for the other person who might  1) not yet have the language to describe what they are feeling or 2) might need help finding the most accurate words.
After a game of feelings detectives, I was able to reconnect with my student and discover that they were feeling too tired to complete the task because they had just had a very busy day and were needing some time to relax and more control over their schedule. This made a simple solution of just moving the rest of our lesson to another day. No punishment or reward, just a rapport building activity that led to a simple solution with everyone’s needs being met.

Although this example above might seem very simple, in the past, I would have easily got caught up in my need for the student to get the work done immediately so that I could feel accomplished in our lesson immediately.

You can make your own set of cards using these lists:

The results of a game of feelings detective can be surprising and ultimately connecting. Once you have spend some time collecting and matching feelings and needs, you’ll know you’ve discovered the power of Feelings Detective when the lightness of understanding and connection occurs and you see more and more sparks of creativity that lead to everyone’s needs being met. Happy Detecting!

Incase you missed it, here’s some resources we have covered from the past few weeks: