There are times when I’ve found myself reacting poorly to something another person says or does and then, discover I misinterpreted their intent. This may have happened to you too and, like I have, end up realizing you have made a big deal out of something that didn’t warrant a negative attribution or reaction.
Why do we do this? I’m not sure. But I think there are times we expect something off-putting from the other person because of our history or unconscious bias. That is, our brains have become primed to interpret the other person’s actions in ways that support our assumptions. Another reason may be we feel guilty about something we ourselves said or did and act out as some sort of justification. These and other reasons might account for a tendency to misinterpret or mis-attribute the other person’s motives.
In this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog, the questions aim to deconstruct the journey taken in a conflict situation to see if another pathway opens up different, less malevolent perspectives.
- What specifically provokes you about the other person?
- What impact does that have on you?
- What reasons have you attributed to the other person for why she or he says or does that?
- What supports these assumptions about her or him from other experiences, people, etc.?
- If there are other possible reasons for the person’s deeds or words that are more positive, what might they be?
- If you have said or done something similar, what reasons have you done so?
- If your best friend said or did that, what reasons may you attribute to her or him for doing so? How would your reaction be the same? Different?
- What would make what the other person said or did not as bad as you initially thought?
- What reasons would you consider forgivable, understandable and feel less upset about?
- What difference would it make to your relationship with this person if you replaced the negative attributions with more positive ones?
- What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
- What insights do you have?