Stick To The Facts Not The Feelings

Since I was a little boy, I have often allowed my feelings to be the main driver for my actions. I remember once in elementary school during recess when my feelings drove my actions. We were having a good time playing when another kid came running up to us, and said, “Trisha is in trouble!” Without hesitation, I took off without knowing any further details. In my mind, I was going to be the guy who rescued my friend. When we arrived, I was out of breath but also saw that my friend was fine. I was a little embarrassed that I treated the moment like Superman swooping in to save someone. We all went back to playing, and no one ever talked about it. This was probably 35 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.


Some might say, “You were brave! You responded with urgency and passion!” Others might say, “You should have asked more questions before taking off. Why did you feel like you had to solve the problem instead of a teacher?” I can say without a doubt that I did let my feelings take over. There was no thought on how I was going to help, but I wanted my friend to know I was there for her. I had no plan, and my friend turned out to be fine. There was no urgency, but I let my feelings take over like there was one.


Letting your feelings take over without knowing the facts can lead to bigger problems.


It’s very important that you do a few things to ensure you don’t become out of control with your feelings. It’s natural for me to get emotional still when I hear that something is wrong. I have had to learn how to control my feelings after making many mistakes. This is an area I am still working on. Here are four things I’ve learned are key to sticking to the facts instead of being led by feelings:

  1. Ask questions

  2. Listen

  3. Give direction

  4. Follow up


Ask Questions

It’s easy to get all riled up when you hear some bad or concerning news. It might directly impact you or others who you care about. It’s good that you care about someone getting hurt, but make sure you ask questions to gain clarity. Don’t assume you have figured out the whole problem in a few seconds. It’s important to ask further questions so the person informing you does not sway your emotions. I had a leader once who would come to my office all upset about an employee. They would come in physically and emotionally bothered. That, of course, caused me to get all bothered, as well. I'm embarrassed to admit that the first several times I would go to people with the same charged feelings before asking any questions. I would find out that there was a lot more to the situation that was not told to me. I often looked foolish because I let my feelings drive the situation without knowing the facts.



Listening can be the hard part because you naturally want to fix the problem immediately. Taking time to hear people out on their view towards the problem is important. You can gain insights and get facts to help ensure feelings aren’t driving the situation or solution. By listening, you are showing others that you are committed to understanding the facts and details. You are not making judgements quickly or off emotion. You are taking time to show you do care about knowing what happened. It allows you to slow things down emotionally. It is important that you listen without interrupting.


Give Direction

Often a situation does require action to be taken to help solve the issue. There could be a need for you as a leader to make a change so the problem can be solved. You have not allowed the emotion to take over, you have asked questions to understand the facts and listened to both sides. Now it’s time to make a decision. A great leader gives direction so the team can thrive. I do not think you need to solve every problem, but sometimes there is a need for you to step in and give direction. The team needs to know you are in charge and where you draw the line. All of this can be done through healthy conflict and by not allowing your feelings to drive your behavior. My business coach taught me a phrase that really is fantastic: “I hear what you are saying but this is what I need you to do.” You have heard the person, but you are making a decision that is not what they want. Great leadership shows respect while standing firm on your decision.


Follow Up

This is the last step that I think many leaders, including me, forget to do. All the right things have been done up front, but this step shows the employees you truly do care about leading well. By following up, it gives everyone an understanding that you care about making sure things are improving. It can also be a time for you to provide encouragement, positive reinforcement and show appreciation for staff changing their behavior. Taking time to revisit the topic shows you weren’t trying to get it off your plate as quickly as possible and that you are truly invested in making your team better.


In conclusion, it's okay to have feelings but don't let them stop you from learning the facts before making a decision that is best for everyone.


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