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Improving the Intangible

Relationships Confidence
"I feel too vulnerable in this aspect of my life. I can't imagine how I could ever feel differently or better about it."

What I hear behind these words is a deeper question:

"How can you help me with such an INTANGIBLE challenge?"

I’m no stranger to feeling vulnerable. Far from it.

So I’m going to show you one of the things I do when I’m feeling rattled.

I use two decks of cards (from Nonviolent Communication in the UK). Each deck has 64 cards. One deck is in pinky red and lists ‘Feelings’. The other deck is mid-blue, and lists ‘Needs’.

Feelings and Needs cards from NVC UK
Feelings and Needs card decks from NVC UK

I use a coaching sequence, which starts from exactly where I am: feeling rattled. I scroll through the Feeling cards, and jot down every word that feels like a match for how I am feeling.

I’m going to show you a recent example of my notes:

What Am I FEELING Right Now?

Ambivalent, anxious, apprehensive, embarrassed, frustrated, impatient, insecure, nervous, tense, vulnerable.

Finding words for my emotions settles me a bit, which sets me up for the second step. Here is my second list:


Calm, confident, curious, excited, inspired, relaxed, safe, surprised.

Shifting my attention to what I want (even simply in terms of feelings) is surprisingly powerful.

Now I can ask myself what I need, what would help me move from the feelings I’m experiencing to the ones I wish I were experiencing.

Again, I just write down everything that feels like it would be a welcome addition to my situation.

What Do I NEED?

Acknowledgement, clarity, creativity, ease, fun & play, inclusion (to include me in my view, so I can practice empathy towards myself with this challenge), learning, safety, self expression, self care, compassion.

The Feelings I Wanted to Feel

Extra: Something I Learnt on This Round

Scanning through the Needs cards, 'Competence' was also among my wishes. As I went to write it into my list of needs, however, I realised that it’s on my list for everything. It’s my catch-all!

The paradox with that is that I’m inclined to put all my focus on this, on having the right skill-set. This trips me up when there is no way to get to Competence from where I am with a particular topic, at that point. There is no way to get to Competence from the position of novice, for instance. No matter how much I wish it were possible.

That’s when I start to smile at myself. (Humour is a favourite Exit Strategy from feeling rattled, for me). I had been wishing for the impossible, and that had been adding to my agitation.

That feels good to recognise! The feeling of stuckness now begins to dissolve and make space for some more plausible targets for myself.

Returning my gaze to the 'Competence' card, I decide to add it to my list of long-term intentions. I will continue to aim for competence in this area, but I will pace myself in recognition of learning taking time. It is okay to make progress - in fact, making progress feels great!

Over to you

If you decide to give a process like this a go, I would love to hear how it pans out for you!