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Checking Out Assumptions

Conflict and reaction often arise from your assumption about the other's thoughts and intentions rather than what is actually true.

As I coach folks in expressing their observation, feeling, need, and request, they often skip the internal observation – their assumptions and interpretations.

The result is continued disconnect and a request that doesn't seem to fit what is said and is often not do-able.

I'll use an example from a couple, Kelly and Chris to illustrate.

Kelly says, "When I see the shopping receipt, I feel irritated because I want honesty. Would you be willing to tell me the truth?!"

In this example, it's not clear what stimulated the feeling and need for Kelly and she doesn't make a specific request.

If, on the other hand, attention is given to an internal observation, observation of her assumption the whole dialogue changes.

Kelly instead says, "When I see the shopping receipt (external observation), I have a thought that you are hiding your spending from me (internal observation).  I feel nervous and need some clarity. Would you be willing to tell me if you are afraid to share with me about spending money?

So let's say in this case, Chris answers Kelly and says, "Yes, it's true I am afraid to share with you."

Kelly can ask Chris to share the observations, feelings, and needs, and requests about spending money and how they talk about it.

Chris might say, "When I considered mentioning it, I had a thought that you would criticize me or that we would fight. I feel frustrated because I want to trust that we can have respectful conversations about money.  Can you tell me what you are hearing me say?"

Kelly reflects back what she heard and then they begin to brainstorm ways they can build a sense of trust and safety around money conversations.

This week, when you find yourself reacting to something stop and ask the question, "What did I just make that mean? What story am I telling myself about that?" Then name the feelings and needs that are alive behind the interpretations and stories.

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