The single most important relationship skill is not communication, it’s taking ownership.
Successful relationships require taking ownership of your “experience.”
WHAT IS YOUR “EXPERIENCE?”
Your “experience” is what happens inside your body and your mind in response to events. It is composed of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
Your experience is involuntary, it just “happens.” It’s neither good or bad or right or wrong. Your experience is always OK and valid.
We spend a lot of time in our head listening to our thoughts. Sometimes thoughts just pop into our consciousness automatically, and sometimes we direct our thoughts with intentionality to solve a problem, express ourselves, make a decision, etc.
And some of our thoughts are judgments. A “judgment” is making a meaning or interpretation in response to an event (right, wrong, good, bad, theory, explanation, reasoning, logic, etc).
FACTS VS. JUDGMENTS
You and a friend go for a walk. You say “It’s a beautiful day.”
Your friend responds “No, it sucks.”
Your reaction is to be surprised. You can’t imagine how anyone could experience such a warm, sunny day to “suck.” Your impulse might be to argue with them- “Are you kidding? Look at that clear blue sky. It’s a gorgeous day!”
This is a very small example of a huge dynamic that creates more relationship conflict than anything else you can imagine.
So let’s take a look at this. You observe the following facts:
The sky is blue
The temperature is 76 degrees
You are walking in a park
Facts are typically measureable events and can be observed through a video camera. If you poll 100 people about a fact, such as “Is the sky blue?” you will typically get almost unanimous agreement that it is blue (except from the color blind!). If you poll 100 people and ask “Is the sky pretty?”, you are asking for an opinion or judgment and will typically get less than 100% agreement.
Your experience of the day is positive. You interpret the blue sky as “beautiful,” the temperature as “perfect” and “comfortable,” and your body “feels good” to get exercise by walking. These are meanings you’ve created from your experience of the facts or events.
Your friend’s experience is negative. We don’t know why yet, but there are many reasons why they might judge the day to “suck.”
YOU HAVE A CHOICE
In the above example, you have a critically important choice to make in your response to your difference of opinion about the day-
Option 1: Focus on the difference (e.g. “Are you crazy? Look at that blue sky and tell me it’s not a beautiful day!”)
Option 2: Focus on curiousity, compassion (e.g. “What’s going on for you?”)
The unconscious knee-jerk response is often to focus on the difference in our experiences and judgments. This choice discounts and argues with any point of view that doesn’t mirror ours and leads to conflict.
It requires a conscious choice to accept differences and not impose our own experience and judgments on others. To come from a place of curiosity about and compassion for a human being who we care about who thinks and feels differently from ourselves.
*********End of Part One. Part Two will be posted tomorrow.
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