How to Argue With Feelings (Don't)

Have you ever tried to rationally argue with a person who believes something based purely on their strong feelings? I bet it didn't go so well. Maybe it was about hot topics like gun reform or immigration, issues that have dire consequences if we don't all agree on what's important.

You tried to educate them. Used hard facts to prove your point, with logical questioning, threw in information from an article you found on the internet from a reputable news source. Still, no change in the outcome. Finally, you asked them, why do you believe something is true without any evidence or proof? 

"Because it feels true," they will say.

How do you argue with that? The answer is simple: You don't. 

Almost every single client I've had has told me in some way or another that they feel like something’s true, even if they "rationally" know it is not. They are aware it doesn't make sense to others, but they can't help but think it. This sentiment is ubiquitous, regardless of your age, gender, race or education level. I recommend learning how to recognize it in yourself first.

I have listened as people tell me all kinds of things they cannot help but believe about themselves or others, often guilty or fearful thoughts that enable them to sabotage themselves through avoidance and shame. This is not caused by a chemical brain imbalance, but a part of the human condition. 

Arguing against feelings will in fact make them stronger. Even if we're momentarily talked out of it, the thoughts always come back to gain the upper hand- usually in secret when no one's watching. We tend to go back to our old habits fairly quickly.

It is necessary then, to pursue a completely different tactic when dealing with feelings, whether in ourselves or other people.  Let go of reason and ask questions instead.  Ask yourself, why am I feeling this way? What is the story behind this feeling? Does it serve a function in my life? How does this feeling make sense in a way I haven't thought of before? What is being communicated that can't be put into words? 

When you ask questions instead of argue, you open up a space for actually getting to the heart of the matter, and more importantly a chance to understand and connect with a loved one. 

While it's easy to assume that there is a right or wrong answer, the truth is only found in searching for it.