"You shouldn't put the Labrador on the trampoline, kids. Her nails will ruin the mat," says the owner of the trampoline.
"You shouldn't put the Labrador on the trampoline, kids. The mat will ruin her nails," shortly thereafter says the owner of the dog.Two people - each looking at an event through different lenses. Each has a different perceptual set or view of what is happening. Each may consider his view of the world as real, as representing TRUTH.
Inside, we all have internal measuring standards by which we assess the (behavior) (opinions) (values) (ideas) of others. Too often, we don't recognize that our measuring standards are idiosyncratic to ourselves. Our standards do not measure what is real at all - they reflect what we know, what we have experienced, what we are comfortable with.
When others don't fit our measurements, we tend to see them as flawed. They are not like us - therefore they are (inadequate) (bad) (wrong), etc. Through our unique and imperfect lenses, we tend to label others who deviate from where we think they "ought" to be by making judgments like these:
- You talk too much (or too loud) or you're too quiet.
- You're disorganized (or too compulsive).
- You're too sensitive (or too insensitive).
- You always want to do things your way (or you're too wishy-washy).
- You're so opinionated (or you never have an idea about anything).
- You're self-centered or selfish.
- You're (crude) (rude) (stupid) (lazy).
What is our message? That we know better how the other person should be, how he should act, or even how he should think or feel. The other person's "way" is inadequate or defective while our own is superior.
In intimate relating, "shoulds" are always poisonous, implying an attempt at dominance and control by one person over another, says Jerry Greenwald, the author of "Be the Person You Were Meant To be." In an ongoing relationship, the consistent presence of "shoulds" establish an atmosphere of pressure and coercion in which a person may feel he is being continually judged and evaluated. A victim of "shoulds" must "habitually check out silently most of what he will say or do, lest he put his foot in his mouth and be reprimanded for having violated some should or ought."
The best that such a person can hope for in his relationship is to avoid breaking any rules. Or, if he is good enough, to avoid criticism and to achieve approval and a pat on the back from the other. There is no room for expression of spontaneous self, observes Greenwald.
In most intimate relating, there is more than one "should-er." "Shoulding," in fact, is a habituated response that most people use far more often than they are aware of in most relationships. The tendency to judge others is nearly universal and is often expressed in language cousin to the "shoulds" - "oughts" "musts," "have to's," "How come you haven't. . . ?"
Shoulds are insidious pests in relationships, causing defensiveness whenever they're directed toward others. So how do you eliminate the tendency to judge others according to your own standards? Here are strategies you might implement:
- Release others from negative monitoring. Most of us have our antennae out to catch others being different from ourselves and to complain to them or to others about their behavior.
Simply let things flow downstream. Let others be different from you. If you can, celebrate the difference rather than seeing it as bad or as a threat. Release others from having to be just like you.
John released his wife when he announced to her: "I'm going to quit telling you what to do and how to do it. From now on you do things the way you need to - the way that makes sense to you. You're free to move in directions that please you without my judging the appropriateness of those moves."
John also gave up equating his wife's love with whether or not she was pleasing him at the moment, saying to her: "I realize you love me and that love has nothing to do with whether you're doing just what I want at any one moment in time. You won't hear me saying again, `If you really loved me, then you would. . . .' "
- Think "gray." You may pigeonhole people or events if you have a tendency to dichotomize or divide the world neatly into extremes, such as black/white, yes/no, good/bad and right/wrong. Few things fit neatly into these categories. People, for example, are usually just different, not wrong. Most things are not black and white, they're gray.
Says Wayne Dyer, author of "Pulling Your Own Strings:" "If you `fixate' on always doing things in certain ways and you impose this one-way standard on others you'll become a victim every time circumstances changes and alternate behaviors are warranted."
- Use opinion language. Acknowledge your awareness that you and every other person operate from different perspectives by reflecting that awareness in your language. As you explain your positions to others, use tentative wording such as:
- From my (perspective) (view) (peepsight) (corner of the world). . . .
- Here's how I see the issue, which may be very different from the way you view it.
- I can see we differ on this issue, which each of us has a right to do.
- I respect your opinion, which is different from my own.