How much do our expectations influence our conflicts? Recent studies about appetite and perception at the University of Bristol in Britain offer some thought provoking answers.
In two different studies, researchers at the college found that people’s perception of how much food they were eating impacted their sensation of fullness and how soon they got hungry again as much as the actual amount they ate.
In one study, people were shown either a generous or skimpy serving of fruit and told they would get that much fruit in a smoothie. Although both groups actually got the smaller amount, those who thought they were getting the larger serving reported feeling 20% fuller.
In the other study, people were given either a large or small bowl of soup, but a hidden pump added additional soup to some of the small bowls or took away soup from some bigger bowls. Those who thought they got a big bowl of soup, regardless of the actual amount, reported feeling fuller three hours after eating than those who ate from a small bowl.
Our expectations and perspective can influence what happens in difficult communications as well. If we believe the other person has said or done something hurtful deliberately, we respond far differently than if we think they made a mistake or were having a hard day. The key here is our perception, not their true motivation, which we often don’t know.
The participants in these studies couldn’t choose the amount of food they got or saw. Similarly, in conflicts or difficult conversations, we can’t control what other people say or do. But, when people trigger our hot buttons, rather than assuming deliberate provocation on their part, we can change our views.
Instead of reacting to what seems negative, we can slow down our responses and choose to affirm a more benevolent interpretation of the other person’s words or actions, even if we are merely guessing. When we take this approach, we can more easily keep our composure and respond calmly rather than retaliating and setting off a spiral of negativity.
Although these researchers weren’t sure if people’s perceptions of food amounts would be as big an influence over a longer time frame, I believe our interactions and sense of well-being continue to improve long term when we choose more positive interpretations of people’s behavior.