One mistake couples often make in a relationship is to assume that they know the reason or the motive behind something their partner did or said. Has your partner ever said to you, or have you said to your partner, “I know why you did that. It’s because _____” This is called assigning motives, and it only leads to defensiveness, blame, and accusations and keeps you stuck in a fight or flight response. Dr. Hawkins warns of the dangers of assuming motives and gives you a better way to approach your mate about something they did or said that bothered you.
The Dangers of Assuming Motives
Have you ever been in a situation where someone assumed to know why you did something or acted a certain way? It’s likely that most of us have encountered this at some point in our lives. These assumptions about motives can be not only frustrating but also damaging to our relationships.
In this article, we will explore the perils of assuming motives and why it is essential to avoid this harmful practice. Dr. David Hawkins, a specialist in working with those who have experienced emotional abuse and those who may exhibit emotionally abusive behavior, sheds light on the pitfalls of assuming motives and the healthier alternatives to understanding and resolving conflicts in our relationships.
The Pitfalls of Assigning Blame
Dr. David Hawkins emphasizes that assigning blame and motives is counterproductive when it comes to addressing conflicts in relationships. The moment someone tells us that they know why we are doing something, we might feel invaded, threatened, and even a little bewildered. This reaction is entirely natural because, in reality, none of us truly comprehends all the complex motives behind our own actions.
This immediate defensive response is an obstacle to open communication. If we want to create healthier, more productive relationships, we need to steer clear of assuming motives. But why doesn’t it work, and what can we do instead?
Guard Against Blaming
Blaming is essentially the act of reducing a person’s actions to something as simple as, “You did this because you’re bad,” or “You’re wrong because of that.” This reductionist approach often ignores the complexity of human behavior and emotions. It doesn’t help anyone involved in the conflict, and it is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution.
Dr. Hawkins emphasizes the importance of avoiding blame and assuming motives. It’s critical to understand that doing so is not the way to reach a resolution or a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. So, what does work when trying to address conflicts and improve relationships?
What Works: A Slow Start and Clear Communication
Instead of jumping to conclusions and assuming motives, Dr. Hawkins suggests a different approach. To work towards understanding and resolving conflicts in a healthy way, it is essential to follow these steps:
- A Slow, Gradual On-Ramp to the Conversation: Rather than immediately confronting someone with your concerns, start the conversation slowly and gently. This approach allows both parties to ease into the discussion and reduces the likelihood of a defensive response.
- Naming the Behavior: When discussing what happened, stick to a clear observation of the behavior. For example, you could say, “When you got angry with me a few minutes ago about this or that, I felt hurt.” This method focuses on the specific actions that caused the conflict, making it easier for the other person to understand and respond constructively.
- Naming a Feeling: Express your feelings in response to the behavior. Sharing your emotions can help the other person better understand the impact of their actions. For example, you could say, “When you walked out of the room when I asked you to do something, I felt alone and hurt.”
- Making a Request for Change: Finally, rather than assigning blame, request what you would like to see changed. Instead of saying, “You’re selfish and self-centered,” say, “I’m asking for this change in how we communicate.” This approach focuses on the specific action that troubles you and what you would like to see different.
By following these steps, you are more likely to engage in a productive and empathetic conversation that can lead to a healthier resolution of conflicts. It encourages open communication and fosters understanding between individuals in the relationship.
In conclusion, assuming motives and assigning blame are counterproductive and detrimental to building healthy relationships. Dr. David Hawkins’ insights remind us that no one truly comprehends all the motives behind their actions, making it unfair and unhelpful to project our assumptions onto others. Instead of jumping to conclusions, we should focus on clear communication, naming the behavior, sharing our feelings, and making requests for change.
By avoiding the dangers of assuming motives, we can foster healthier relationships, resolve conflicts constructively, and create an atmosphere of understanding and empathy. Remember, it’s not about blame or assuming motives but about opening the lines of communication to better connect with the people in our lives. In doing so, we can build stronger and more fulfilling relationships that stand the test of time.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.