Okay – let me address this in the first person, so that it’s clear I’m taking ownership of my own feelings and behavior, because that’s what this series of posts will be all about.
Everything I say and do is about me. It doesn’t matter if I talk to you, at you, about you, or through you. It’s still about me.
The other side of that is that what I say and do is not about you, it’s about me.
If I say “that was ridiculous” or “you make me angry” or “you’re just stupid” (not that I would actually say any of those things, of course), what I’m really saying is “I think that was ridiculous, because it doesn’t match with my view of the world.” or “I’m feeling angry about what you just said/did, but I’d rather that you be responsible for my feelings, because I don’t like them.” or “I don’t think that was a very thoughtful/clever/reasonable thing to say, and I know that if I call you stupid you’ll feel bad. Maybe you’ll also think about what you’re going to say before you say it next time.”
The difference between the first and the second is this: in the first, I push everything onto you; in the second, I take ownership. I even take ownership for my own “bad” behavior. I even take ownership for my own feelings.
This is at the heart of what I believe about how I relate to the world I live in and the people in that world.
- I believe that I own and am responsible for my behavior.
- I believe that I own and am responsible for my feelings.
- I believe that I can only know you through your behavior and your words.
- I believe that the only interaction we have is through our behavior and words.
- I believe that I cannot know your feelings, your motivation, or your history (except my experience of your history).
- I believe that while hearing and understanding your motivation/feelings/history enhances my ability to have a good relationship, it is not necessary in order for me to have a healthy and happy relationship with you.
Everything else comes from these beliefs. I state them as beliefs because while they are Real and True for me, I don’t know that they are for you.
In a series of posts, I plan to explore this framework.
I give credit to Larry B, a therapist in Austin whom I saw with my wife at one time, and to the four authors of “Crucial Conversations” and “Crucial Confrontations”. Without them, these thoughts might never have penetrated my barriers to make it into my brain.