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Contemplative Thought 4 - Absolutes In Your Relationships

February 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 197

There is a small but distinct difference that occurs when a person looks at how they are being treated by someone else. People have a tendency of assigning an absolute to the whole. A person will describe who the other person is by placing a small and temporary trait on the whole being of that person.

Very few things are as absolute as we make them out to be and I often see this dynamic at work with couples. This can lead to a destructive interaction pattern.

Let us start off with an example so that you understand exactly what it is I'm talking about.

A couple comes in for counseling and one of the questions I usually ask early on is how they would describe their partner. In this example the husband turns, looks at his wife and says "she's selfish." This statement is an absolute. "She's selfish" translates into that a fixed part of the wife's personality is selfishness. This negative labeling of the whole is what they call a character assassination. I ask at this point, are you saying that the person you love and decided to spend the rest of your life with is selfish OR are there times when she does things you perceive as selfish. Generally, the latter is what the person means and is trying to convey. There is a huge different between the two.

Character assassination can be very damaging to a relationship. It leads to a pattern of negative interaction. Research by John Gottman of the Gottman Institute has shown that it takes 5 positive interactions to counter the effects of 1 negative one. Character assassination is a negative interaction. It also leads to other type of communication issue that is proven to be high damaging to relationships.

Recognizing and acknowledging times when a person acts contradictory to the ways they normally act can be very informative. If the wife is usually caring and considerate, one needs to ask why, at specific times does she act selfish. If this is not a core personality trait, then it is possible to investigate into why the person acts this way in these situations. What is the underlying cause to this change? This is actually a good time to ask yourself, what part do I play in this? This is not to imply that you always have something to do with this. (This would be another absolute.)

If a person, using the above example, is selfish then you are dealing with a core character trait. Something that is deeply rooted in their personality and if it's a personality trait, it's part of who that person is. This will be harder to change. If a person sometimes does selfish things and acting selfishly is uncharacteristic then one needs to question what is contributing to the selfishness response they are portraying.

How often do you assign an absolute to describe a part of something? What absolutes do you and your partner have in your relationship?

Source: EzineArticles
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Contemplative Thought


Character Assassination


Personality Trait




Couples Counseling

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