Are You Jumping to Conclusions?

{3:15 minutes to read} It’s a well-known fact that people living together for a long period of time take each other for granted. They make assumptions about the other person’s intentions and this isn’t usually a good thing. Spouses wind up jumping to the wrong conclusion and think that they’re being criticized.

One of the spouses could be recounting what happened at Thanksgiving five years ago. The storyteller is trying to explain his or her own perspective. But the listener jumps to the conclusion that the story is really about him—that there’s criticismand the whole rest of the story is colored from that place.

This often illustrates a conflict dynamic that has developed in the couple. It also illustrates where they could benefit from professional intervention to have more productive conversations. I think that in fact when the dynamic is very strong they actually need someone elsea mediator, or a counselor—in order to have any hope of constructive resolution.

Frankly, I notice this in my own conflict conversations with my own husband, my own children, and my own parents. I start to assume that somebody is meaning to criticize; this particularly happens with my husband. I’m telling him a story or asking him a question with “an agenda to it.” I also have criticism, when really it almost never has anything to do with him. It’s really me.

This happens all the timefor example, last nightI noticed my kitchen light bulb looked burned out. I asked my husband, “Is that light out?” My intentions were innocent and genuine. But he may have heard my question as a criticism with an agenda behind it. He may have heard, “You need to replace that light bulb,” or even “Why haven’t you noticed the light is out and changed it yet?”

Try to remember when listening to a story in which you play a part, it’s the storyteller’s perspective. It’s their plot, it’s their theme, it’s their moral. Relax the idea that there’s a need to react or that you should have done something differently. This makes it much easier to really listen to what the other person is saying. Even if there is a criticism, a complaint or request, hear it in a different way. You will be more responsive to what is happening with the storyteller, and shift the paradigm of the conversation in profound ways.

Are you really listening to what the other person is saying? If you want to learn how to hear things in a new way and improve your conflict resolution skills, please contact me.

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