Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Are You Running A Racket?
My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products.
We’ve been talking about transactional analysis, one of the tools I use to help leaders, coaches and consultants to develop.
Sometimes people show feelings and you think, is this real or not? Probably you’ve got a gut reaction that leads you to this thought. Perhaps when you see someone get hurt and they laugh, you find it a bit strange. Or instead of showing a scared feeling someone gets angry, or people who should be angry start to cry. You wonder, what’s going on here? You might be witnessing the expression of a racket feeling.
A racket feeling is a familiar emotion that you learned and was encouraged to use in your childhood, in your family home, because you were not allowed to express the authentic feeling.
There are three ways a racket feeling develops:
Feeling is named but forbidden: You show these racket feelings because in your family of origin, probably the authentic feeling was named but forbidden. For instance, boys don’t cry. So instead of crying, they get angry, and a racket feeling is born.
Feeling is not noticed: Maybe the racket feeling develops in your family of origin because the authentic feeling isn’t noticed. For instance, a baby cries and you go, oh, look at those pretty balloons over there, completely missing the authentic feeling.
We have a documentary in Holland where children rate their parents on their parenting skills. There was an excerpt of a girl who was sent to boarding school because her parents worked on a ship. As the girl was being interviewed, she said she was very homesick and she cried real crocodile tears. The parents’ reaction was: “You don’t have it as bad as we did.” The child stopped her tears immediately and withdrew. She had a stony face and started talking about something else, pretending to be happy.
That is a typical example of how a racket feeling develops, where the parent or parent figures don’t even notice or discount the real feeling.
Feeling is mislabeled: The other way racket feelings get develop is when an authentic feeling gets mislabeled. People sometimes grow up in families where if they cry they are told not to be so angry. Or when they’re scared they’re asked if they feel sad. The child, because they don’t have a vocabulary for this, mislabel their feelings. Racket feelings are really a replacement for authentic feelings. It’s what we say “stroked in the family of origin”.
Any time you have a racket feeling you are in script. Why is this useful as a leader, coach or consultant? Because sometimes you have clients or employees who show all sorts of feelings. But in your gut, you know that it’s not authentic, and that something else going on.
Authentic feelings are real reactions to the here and now
If you get hit by a car and you start to cry, of course, it’s a real feeling. If I was walking down the street in a strange city and I hear footsteps behind me, and I feel fear, it’s a real feeling. It’s not a racket feeling because there’s a real here and now threat. If I show fear when there was nothing to be afraid of you could start to doubt if that’s an authentic feeling or believe it’s a racket feeling.
This is really important to know for leaders, coaches and consultants, because if you ‘stroke’ the racket feeling, you’ll get more of script, an old non problem solving pattern. For instance if someone is crying when they’re really angry and you put your arms around them to comfort them, you’re devaluing their real, authentic feeling inside, which is a repetition probably of what they’ve lived through before.
Learn the difference between when authentic and racket feelings and learn to react appropriately to the authentic feeling, regardless of what people express. Then you recognise people’s real self and you help them to get their needs met and solve problems in the here and now.