Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Taking responsibility

I firmly believe the following:

There are two parts to how we experience what someone says or does to us. The first part is what they actually do—it’s their action, and it is separate from their intent, which we can’t know (unless they tell us). The second part is our interpretation of that action, which is based upon all of our experiences up to this point—every single thing that ever happened to us, everything we think we know.

You’ll have a gut reaction based on all of that, but you can stop there and think it through, and see how your experiences have shaped your interpretation. So when someone says something that hurts you, you can choose to believe the worst, that they wanted to hurt you, or you can be more generous with your interpretation, and believe that they clumsily tried to be kind or neutral, and just got it wrong. And, by 'wrong', I mean wrong for you—because how you react will be different from how others react.

In a healthy relationship, you trust the other party, so you believe the best of them, and don’t assume they want to hurt you. And, if they don’t want to hurt you, then it should be safe to assume that they will want to understand how their innocent actions did unintentionally hurt you, so they can avoid hurting you in future. And it should be safe to assume that they will eliminate or at least reduce the hurtful behaviour, for the same reason. So long as you continue to recognise that it’s as much about your interpretation as their action, they should continue to be responsive to your constructive feedback.

Anything else—any unwillingness to change, any hint of choosing to see the worst in each other, any tendency to dismiss their feelings as unwarranted, any attempts to actually blame them for your feelings…or any ongoing lack of response to your requests to change such behaviours—is unhealthy.

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