Human beings naturally seek to make sense of situations and make meaning (M&M) in order to navigate life in a meaningful way.
Take for example a situation where the VP of Sales has several direct reports. One of the salespeople is chronically late to work. Over several weeks, the VP becomes increasingly frustrated with the tardiness of the individual. But due to the VP’s passive personality, they neglect to confront the tardiness issue. Other salespeople grouse about this tardiness behavior and soon the VP and many other salespeople resent the individual who is chronically late.
One day the employee is once again late and the VP explodes like a boiling pot. “Why are you always late, don’t you have any respect for me or your peers?”
The employee breaks down in tears and replies “I’m so sorry, my mother has cancer and is recently moved in with me, I have a child who had a severe accident and is recovering from a head injury, and my husband left me two months ago”.
The VP felt like they had been hit by a truck. They were interpreting the tardy behavior completely inaccurately.
How often might you make meaning out of a situation when in reality, you are misinterpreting someone’s behavior based on incomplete information.
Instead, do this.
When you have a situation where you feel triggered (have one or more negative emotions), write them down on a piece of paper. Then write a brief description of the situation. Write down what you think is going on. Then ask yourself, what other possibilities may exist for the person’s behavior. This will allow you to possibly avoid jumping to an inaccurate conclusion.
- May you make more accurate meaning of situations you encounter leading to healthier relationships.