Stop feeling! Start thinking! A case for knowing what you mean and saying it


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

It seems as though in the past decade or so a disturbing trend has arisen. At first, I assumed it just a fad that would quickly go out of style, but unfortunately, its popularity only seems to have gained momentum. I’m talking about the habit of beginning sentences with the phrase “I feel like…”

Now, of course there are circumstances where this is perfectly appropriate. For instance, “I feel like something is gnawing into my brain;” if one actually had some sort of parasite feasting on their gray matter, that would absolutely be a reasonable use of the phrase.

However, “I feel like we should have a better training program,” is not a legitimate statement. You don’t feel it, you think it, presumably because you’ve given the matter thorough consideration and done your homework on the subject. So say so.

This may sound like semantics or that it’s just my personal pet peeve, but there is a very real reason that I bring this up. And don’t get me wrong, I’m also guilty, though I do try to catch myself.

By saying that you “feel” that x,y, or z is true, what you’re really saying is, “This is what I think, but it’s really just a hunch with no reasoning, analytical thought, or weighing of information behind it, so feel free to disregard everything I say on the subject from here on out.” This may not be what you mean, but let me assure you, this is what people hear, whether they realize it or not.

Women and Millennials in particular seem to have taken to this phrase like fish to water. Unfortunately, many women are still intimidated by male dominated work environments and/or are uncomfortable with speaking authoritatively, or taking on positions of power or leadership. And many younger people feel unsure of themselves and their opinions, particularly when surrounded by more seasoned professionals.

This provides an out, so you can say what you think without putting your full authority behind it (and hopefully dodging some of the repercussions if it receives criticism). But prefacing statements with “I feel like” is often perceived as a reflection of insecurity either in the person saying it or in the statement they are making and that overshadows whatever follows it.

If you are voicing an opinion or asked to give your thoughts on a given subject, as a professional, it is expected that you have taken the time to think the matter through, do any research that is necessary, and analyzed information on all sides. If you have not done those things, then may I suggest you make a point to before opening your mouth, or simple say, “I haven’t had a chance to look into that fully, I’ll get back to you on it,” or something to that effect. If you have, don’t discount your statements. Say what you think and make it clear that you think it precisely because you have done your homework and are therefore in a position to speak with authority on the subject.

So to make a long story longer, what I’m getting at is this; know what you’re talking about. Then have the set to speak like you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, say so, and make it clear that next time you will (and make sure you do).

Saying, “I feel like” has become so commonplace that we have lost sight of what we are really conveying to those around us. You may not agree with anything I’m saying here, and that’s fine, but try replacing I feel with I think for a while and pay attention to how people respond to what you’re saying. Let me know how you make out in the comments!


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