art work by John Ceprano
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Reading Into Things

It’s not a straightforward exercise to figure out from where and how our assumptions come to us. Life experience, family, friends, teachers, observations, gossip, others’ tales, and a wide range of variables have an impact on our thinking. How we interpret peoples’ words, actions, behaviours, attitudes, etc. leads us to act and react in ways that are based on our assumptions – not necessarily on what is actually intended. Conflict can easily arise from erroneous perceptions and misinterpretations. Unexplored attributions are antithetical to any effort to master conflict responses.

Sometimes what we read into a statement or action may differ depending on the person. That is, we may overlook, make excuses for, or smile at something done or said by a dear friend and not make negative assumptions about his or her motives. Whereas, we may read ill intent into the same statement or action by someone we don’t know or like for some reason.

This aspect of conflict mastery, like others, has many layers to it and this blog provides an opportunity to examine any tendency to attribute motives to others that they may not own. To answer this week’s questions, consider a situation in which you are interpreting someone’s words or actions in negative ways:

  • What did the person say or do (or not say or do) that bothers you?
  • What bothers you most about that and why?
  • What did you ‘read’ about his or her intent?
  • What tone did you ‘hear’ in his or her actions/words?
  • What is the explanation he or she may provide if not what you are thinking?
  • What words describe the impact on you of his or her actions or words?
  • If he or she intended to cause that impact on you, why would that be the case?
  • What reason(s) do you do or say that sort of thing, if you do?
  • What do you think would surprise him or her most about what you have read into the situation and about him or her?
  • How may you check out your interpretation so you can be clear on what happened?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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