“I don’t know how I’m feeling. Can I see the wheel?” is asked often in the meetings I facilitate where I start the meeting with the question: “How are you feeling?” – and they know I’m expecting more of an answer than “well,” “fine,” or “good.” This is where the feelings wheel comes into play.
Incorporating the Feeling Wheel Into the Workplace
Starting meetings this way is either common place or weird depending on your path. It became routine for me a few organizations back when we were navigating a trauma-informed transformation. Part of that structured check-in process at the start of a meeting became routine because of the connection it can create—both to ourselves and each other.
Ask the question. Don’t allow non-feeling answers (such as “good” or “fine”) and watch what happens. To answer, our gaze must be directed inward for a moment of reflection. For those who have been using their thinking and talking brains all day, the question leads to a brief full stop and centering. If what we find there is pleasant, we may give it more space through attention. If what we find there is weighty, the focus can help ease its grip a bit.
Observing the feeling changes our relationship to it. Maybe the pause revealed a kernel of pride in a recent success. Hey, let’s throw a private party for that win! Maybe pausing revealed sadness or feeling overwhelmed. Noticing it also allows us to decide what to do with it. Maybe grief or anger needs to be allowed to flow, to fully express itself. Maybe we need to lay down a burden for another day. Allowing a feeling some space to run its course changes it. And anyone who has ever tried to muzzle a feeling knows it’s coming out, one way or another. Why not open the door before the feeling breaks it down?
The question, honestly answered, also strengthens the ties to one another which is the reason to answer the question out loud. Want to have a successful team? Tend to the connections between its members. Failure to do so will sabotage your results, plain and simple. If we become more function to one other than human, than the inevitable fractures will turn into chasms again and again.
Establishing Boundaries For Open Communication
“Humans first, work second,” is often how I move into check-ins. Note though, that for an authentic answer to the feeling question, there need to be bumper rails to make it safe for all. We all have our own boundaries between our personal and professional selves that need respect. An important bumper rail is to agree that no follow-up questions will be asked about someone’s shared feeling. This allows each person to share as much or as little as they choose without fearing a bevy of questions that can feel intrusive.
Finally, we can often be a little numb, which can make a feeling wheel helpful. By seeing the range of feelings on the wheel, it can help put a name to what is going on beneath the surface – whether it’s good or bad. There are many variations of the feeling wheel out there, but the one linked here is a good one.
Stop, reflect, connect – all in 30 seconds per team member. What follows will feel more focused and will nurture the team connection that leads to powerful collaboration.
So. Tell us. How are you feeling?
This blog was contributed by Margaret Vimont, LCSW | Vice President of Strategy & Service Development
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.