Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Observing Without Interpreting

....or other wise entitled, "the judgements we make".....

For a couple of years now, I have taken young people who have no experience in my field, and have trained them. One of the things that they are required to learn well, is "reporting". On each assignment, and after the investigation, we are required to write a report to the client explaining everything from what happened, to how and why it happened, to how the claimant is or is not reacting. We are also required to include a recommendation. It has been my experience that one of the most difficult points to get across is that we are to do this without judgement and opinion.

If only I had a dollar for everytime I coached one of my trainees, "write about the behavior you observed, do not give it an interpretation or meaning, stick to what you observed"

We see our son sitting on the sofa, watching TV, while the dishs sit in the sink and we interpret "he's lazy".

We see a woman shoulder her way into a line and we interpret "she's rude".

We hear our spouse lament that they are not getting their way and we interpret "he/she is selfish"

Rather than observe what "they do", we judge what "they are" (based on the interpretation we assigned to the behavior we saw) and we seldom, if ever, recognize the true feelings that were "triggered" in ourselves, when we observed the behavior. All we know is "it made us angry" (or usually, "THEY made me angry", which is a superficial emotion that covers up most other emotions)But I digress.

This interpretation of behavior is judgement. And because judging tends to give us an unconscious sense of superiority, we do not see the need to clarify what it was we actually saw.

The "lazy" son could be sick, or immobilized by depression, or simply needing mindless escape. We won't know if we don't get past the judgement and become curious instead.

The "rude" lady could be frantic about a missed deadline and in a "life or death" hurry, or panicked and distracted and simply unaware that there was a line.

Our "selfish" spouse could simply be wanting to be heard, or have their needs met and don't know how to communicate that well enough.

One of the things that Jesus did, and did with intention, was get curious. He never judged behavior He observed; He asked questions. Rather than assign His own meaning, He requested explanation.

If we learn how to observe without interpreting, and instead get curious about what we saw (which does not mean we interrogate..more on this another time) , we are more than half way to effective, peace filled communication.

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