05 July 2011

Positive Interpretation, even a miss, is Good for Relationship Building

In a previous post Washing Away the Mud to Gain Clarity in Thinking
I presented that our opinions had 3 components of facts, interpretation and judgment. In this post, I will give another common example of fact and interpretation and suggest that a positive interpretation, even though if it were a misinterpretation, is good for relationship building.

The Event - You are late!

You and your wife had made an appointment. She came late. In fact, 30 minutes late. What is your reaction to her lateness? Your reaction tells you much about your relationship and your view of her.

Righteous Indignation!
For some people, if not most people, and definitely not you, their first reaction will be anger. Let's go through the 3 stages in one quick step,
  1. Fact: 30 minutes late. Supposed to be on-time. Failure to meet expectation.
  2. Interpretation: Inconsiderate. Never think of me. Just think of herself. Keep me waiting. No love.
  3. Judgment: This is bad. I am angry and every right to be so.
  4. Action: Scold her - let her know how I feel or be sarcastic and hurt her back.
  5. Reaction: Since she is hurt (not even allow me to explain), she would be upset and will hit back at earliest opportunity, e.g. last time you were late too....
Positive Interpretation and Positive Response

Why should we react in anger? If you have a positive image of your wife and know that she will only be late with good reasons, your reaction will be very different. Couples in love will be glad to meet even though late. You will respond happily and even forget about asking her reasons for being late. 

May be we are not that saintly. So we ask nicely for her reasons to be late. This should be minimum standard of proper behavior. Ask for information first before making a judgment.

Stay at factual level. Ask for the reasons for the lateness. The reasons could be:
  1. there was an accident on the way here and there was a big jam.
  2. boarded the wrong bus/MRT in a hurry and have to make her way back.
  3. made a wrong turn into the highway and was trapped there.
  4. chatting with old friend forgot about the time.
  5. She left early but her car was banged from the rear and have to settle the accident. (Are you happy she was ok or are you more concern about the damaged car?).
  6. just plainly forgot about the time.
Even for factual reason 6, would you be upset?
Would you like to interpret her intention as lack of love and concern for you and get upset. For good relationship building, psychological study tells us it is better to interpret positively. They have a term for it, "Positive Illusion". Let me quote a sentence from the post Just how positive are positive illusions?,
For example, Murray and Holmes (1997) found that “positive partner illusions predicted greater satisfaction, love and trust (as well as less conflict and ambivalence) in both dating and marital relationships” (Swami and Furnham, 2008 p. 3).
I don't like the technical term "positive illusion", a better and layman term is "Faith and Hope". I know you don't have it yet, but I am sure you can become and will make it. That is what vision and hope is all about.

(Note: as in the post, extreme positive illusions are also called madness. So do have a balance but balance on the positive side, they called it mild positive illusion)

That's Call Love.

In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13 gives a working definition of love. In particular,  verse 7 Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Your Success in Life - Career and Relationship depends on Your Positive Interpretation.

Between the vision and the present reality, there is a gap. We will always be facing the gap of expectation and actual reality. What do we do with the disappointments, even from our friends and loved ones, that happened to us?

Your interpretation, assuming the worse or believing the best, determine your response and future happenings.  It reminds me of Covey's 90-10 principle.

Your choice - assuming the worse or believing the best.

Hope you always make the right decision. This is the secret of staying in love and building of long term relationship.
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