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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Preventing Truth Decay

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What’s wrong with the following statements you might hear parents or spouses make (beside their being rude and disrespectful)?

1.  “You are the worst slob in the world.  This room’s like a pig pen!”

2.  “You think you’re so perfect.  I’ve never met anyone so better-than-thou.”

3.  “Why do you have to be like this?  Don’t you ever think?  Won’t you ever learn?”

4.  “You’re always tripping over everything.  Why do you have to be so clumsy all the time?”

5.  “I get no respect whatsoever.  All I’m good for is to do everyone’s dirty work.”

The main problem with all of the above?  They’re just not true.

Take the first statement:  “...the worst slob in the world?”  Among the world’s seven billion people, can even your son/daughter/spouse really be that outstanding?  And “...like a pig pen?”  Really?

Statement two assumes that the speaker, like God, knows exactly what someone else is thinking and feeling (amazing mind reading ability), and the “I’ve never met anyone so...” is an obvious exaggeration, a judgmental statement for which there is clearly no valid proof.

Number three is a series of barbs having nothing to do with what real questions are for--to ask for information.  In reality, they are poorly disguised put downs.

In number four, the use of “always”, “everything” and “all the time” represent generalizations that are almost always untrue, and only invite defensiveness on the part of the hearer.

And number five represents a self-pitying, self-put-down more likely intended to produce guilt  than to describe how the speaker really feels about him or herself.  And the phrases “no respect whatsoever,” “All I’m good for,”  and “everyone’s dirty work” are exaggerations and generalizations almost anyone can see through.

In short, there’s no substitute for just offering good, unembellished, information-giving truth.  That means simply describing a situation, and our own feelings about it, as accurately as we can, using good, plain “I-messages” instead of finger-pointing “You-messages”.

But wait, isn’t it the truth that hurts?

Not if offered in a spirit of care and respect.  What hurts are inaccurate distortions of the truth, statements that have little to do with letting someone know (information), but a lot to do with letting someone have it (accusation).

There’s a big difference. 
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