Feelings are facts

(A brief note on enterprise-architecture and the like that came up over the Christmas break.)

Emotions are facts.

Feelings are facts.

(Subjective facts, it’s true, yet facts nonetheless.)

Assertions about emotions and feelings – in particular, about what Self or Other ‘should’ or ‘should not’ feel – are not facts.

(They’re just opinions – nothing more than that.)

It’s scary how many people get this one the wrong way round…

5 Comments on “Feelings are facts

  1. Hi Tom.

    What is the significance of labelling certain things as “facts” and certain other things as “not facts”?

    If I tell you how I am feeling, or if you infer what I am feeling from my general demeanour, you may regard such assertions as unreliable. But then even my own feelings may be unreliable – for example I might feel angry at the conscious level, but this anger serves to mask some deeper feeling such as fear or anxiety at the unconscious level.

    Surely most facts are unreliable to some extent? If we say that assertions of emotion don’t count as facts because they are unreliable, then we need to discard a lot of other things as well.

    I agree that assertions of “should” or “ought” don’t usually count as facts, and there are many assertions of this kind in enterprise architecture. Instead of fact/non-fact, I’d prefer to think about different classes of judgement (following Geoffrey Vickers).

    • Thanks, Richard – and yes, everything you say above is valid, and important.

      What I was after here was something a lot simpler: just the acknowledgement that feelings and suchlike are real factors that we must take into account in architectures and the like, and also the acknowledgement that opinions and the like are risky things to treat as fact. The kind of detail that you’ve described above is extremely important, yet until we get to that first level it’s just extra detail that will serve more to confuse than help.

      And also, I really really wanted, just for once, to write a piece that was short enough for most people to be willing to read! 🙁 🙂

    • @Richard: “Instead of fact/non-fact, I’d prefer to think about different classes of judgement”

      Very good way to put it – probably a lot better than I’ve done here.

      The main point I was trying to address with this post is that people frequently apply an inappropriate form of judgement – which is not a good idea. To apply an appropriate form of judgement, we first need to be clear what’s going on, and what type of judgement is needed. For example, from a business perspective, customers’ emotions and feelings should be viewed as ‘facts’, because those are the ‘facts’ that those customers are acting on, whether we believe that they ‘should’ do so or not.

      As you suggest, there are lot of layers to this: but the very first layer is realising that our opinions about what our customers ‘should’ or ‘should not’ feel are not wise items to treat as ‘fact’, whereas the emotions and feelings that our customers are expressing probably are wise to treat as ‘fact’. It’s only a surface-level point, but my experience is that way too many people in business don’t even manage to get that far – let alone the much deeper levels you describe above.

      Hope that makes a bit more sense, anyway?

  2. Hi Tom,

    I loved this post! Sometimes, less is more in EA, words and all the failures of language, specially our stupids written words (emails/reports) just confuse and avoid us to capture emotions from the others, so important in relationships, therefore, so important in EA. Keep feeling!

    Nice 2013, cheers!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *