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Dawn J. Lipthrott, LCSW
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SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS
A Newsletter for Intentional Relationships at Home & in Life
By Dawn J. Lipthrott, LCSW

NUMBER 2:4

For more information on relationships or the loss of them,see the articles sections on this Web site.

This Issue of SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS:

CONTENTS OF SEPTEMBER ISSUE:

--Welcome
--Assumptions: The Silence that Deafens
--Resource of the Month
--Topics for Team Building at Home and Work

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Dear Friends and Newcomers,

As I think about and work on these issues, I'm somewhat torn between setting a regular monthly schedule and a concern about overwhelming people with more e-mail. I'm interested in what you think about this. I know for myself, sometimes I get so much e-mail, I just don't have much time to read even those newsletters that I really enjoy receiving.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy this issue. Thank you for sharing these articles and the newsletter with your friends.

Warmly,
Dawn
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ASSUMPTIONS: THE SILENCE THAT DEAFENS
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Both in my self and in the clients I work with, one of the key culprits in feeling unhappy or relationship dissatisfaction is the often silent, but powerful reality of assumptions.

TAKE A SITUATION FROM YOUR LIFE:

Think of a frustration you have right now, or a relationship at home or work that is uncomfortable.

Write down what the problem is.

When that frustrating thing happens, or when you experience that problem you named, what goes on inside your head?

What does the other person's actions make you think about yourself and about them?

What do you tell yourself inside when those frustrating or hurtful things happen?

And then, how do you end up feeling?

How do you react as a result?

AN EXAMPLE FROM MY LIFE:

I'll tell you about a situation that happened to me. I was part of a fairly small group of people working on a project. We were going along fine and then we came up against a point of major disagreement. We already knew we had some disagreements about this issue before our last meeting, so it was hardly a surprise that we hit a wall. The disagreement itself wasn't the thing that ticked me off. What frustrated and eventually angered me was the way one of the members responded. The first thing that started me off was after several people had expressed their opinions, Joe said with great drama, "I'm shocked. I can't believe what I'm hearing. I can't believe that this group of people would ever, ever think this way. I'm shocked and deeply troubled by it."

What happened inside of me was that I did an internal rolling of the eyes that no one could see. What went on in my head is something like, "Oh, please. Cut the drama. Who do you think you are, God? Like YOUR view is the one and only legitimate and reasonable view?"

Some of the assumptions I had already made was that he was being dramatic to have the greatest effect when it was turn. I assumed that he thought his opinion was the only right one. I assumed that he was implying that we were all wrong, stupid, unevolved, blind to the real issues and probably a few other things. I assumed he was being self-righteous. It also made me think that he was invalidating everyone else in the room, including me. I felt impatient, irritated, angry. Inside I didn't even want to listen to what he had to say after that. I ended up listening, but could feel a wall of resistance to what he was saying. I essentially turned him off although I still heard the words. I felt myself disconnect from him and from what he was saying. I grew silent for a while and wondered, "What's the use of even saying anything to him.?" Later I did say more about what I thought about the issue and how I disagreed with Joe.

Part 2 of that incident happened the next time we all met since we had not resolved our disagreement and needed to decide how to proceed on the project. Before everyone arrived, Joe was in the room with another man. When I walked in, I asked how is it going, and the other man said "Oh, Joe has just been arguing with me," and got up to get coffee. I sat down next to Joe and was just chit-chatting. Then Joe asked me if I had thought more about our discussion of the last meeting.

Right away I started making assumptions, quicker than I had before: He's hoping I now agree with him. This is a trap and he's going to try to convince you of how you're wrong and he's right.

I said to him that I had thought a lot about what he and everyone else had said. "And. . .?" he pressed. "And I've become clearer about what bothers me about it which we'll discuss this morning." Joe kept pressing and I fell for it. I said what I had been thinking. Then I got more from him about how disturbed he was, how shocked that any of us could think that way and that he didn't think he could go on being part of a project that had people thinking that way.

My assumptions then were: He's trying to manipulate me by threatening to leave, by trying to invalidate my thinking. This is all part of his plan to break us down one by one in the name of friendly chatting. He is so arrogant. His view is the only view.

I felt angry, resistant. I could feel myself digging in my heels on my own position. I stopped talking, sat there a few moments in silence and then got up to greet someone else who had arrived for the meeting.

Now, as I write this, I'm assuming some of you are saying, "Good for you. I wouldn't let him get away with that either!"

There are a couple of ways of looking at both my situation in this story and the one you wrote down about the other person. We could conclude that the other person is simply an obnoxious jerk. Or, we could own our assumptions and change them if we so choose. Before I talk about that, I want to say a little about assumptions themselves.

WHY WE MAKE ASSUMPTIONS: (For some unknown reason, this part of newsletter is missing, but I will add a brief statement here.
One of the main reasons we make assumptions is not because we are bad or overly judgmental (although some of us ARE judgmental!). It is the nature of the brain to make meaning of what it sees, hears, experiences. The primary way it makes meaning is to compare the current experience to its whole history of life experiences and information. In fact, we say that NEW information and experience creates "cognitive dissonance". It shakes up our usual meaning/assumptions. So, making assumptions is natural. The problem is that we think our 'meaning' we give something is THE truth -- the one and only truth -- and if you don't think, experience like I do, you are wrong. And what's worse, is that we tend to do it all 'unconsciously'. We don't even realize we are doing it.

THE POWER OF ASSUMPTIONS
If we were to change our assumptions, we would end up with a different picture of the other person involved AND we would feel differently. So, just knowing that our assumptions about a situation, person, or point-of-view is precisely that -- an assumption, a story our brain has made up from our life experiences and information -- we can create an opening for NEW information. We can consciously take in the 'meaning' and experience of another person, group, or nation and expand and deepen our own.

ACTION:

Pay attention to assumptions you make about others or about issues. Be curious about the validity of someone else's view or experience, even if you disagree with their position.

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RESOURCE OF THE MONTH
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Pick up the book or audio tape: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Go to http://www.relationshipjourney.com. You can order right there since we are an associate of Amazon.com.

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TOPICS FOR TEAM BUILDING (Home and Work)

In this section, I will provide each month a couple of topics or questions. They can be used to share with your co-workers (team meeting, or one on one, at lunch, etc.) and/or with your family. You can also write your own thoughts about them in a journal.

Each person takes a turn and all others present listen without interrupting about one of the topics.

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--What do you think the vision is of this company or team,--marriage or family?

--How do you see yourself contributing to it becoming a reality?

--What is one thing you could do this week to make it happen?

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--Thinking back over time in this marriage, family, or company, what was the time when you had the most fun?

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--If you could change one thing that you contribute in our partnership, what would it be and why?

--What is one thing you could do this week to make that change begin?

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DISCLAIMER  Disclaimer: Information, observations, and opinions are offered for general reference only and should not be misconstrued as counseling advice, diagnosis or psychotherapy. Base your treatment or decisions solely upon the recommendations of your your own psychotherapist, counselor or physician or your own choices. By using this site, you signify full acceptance of our Terms of Use.   

PRIVACY POLICY

I welcome your constructive comments and suggestions about the material on this website and how we can all be most effective in co-creating the kind of relationships and world that is honoring and respectful for all people.
©Copyright of the Dialogue Process as used in Imago Relationship Therapy belongs to Harville Hendrix, PhD

© Dawn Lipthrott, The Relationship Learning Center, 1998 Renewed 2008 www.relationshipjourney.com

(May be copied and distributed as long as this identifying information is retained on copies. Reproduction for financial gain is prohibited.)