The way people have to perceive things transforms their wellbeing as well as their relationships.
Most often, it is the lack of nuance in perception or description that transforms a person’s judgment.
Take for example the politician someone supports with his vote. It doesn’t describe the person, it only describes one action that person performed. And yet, in the stereotyping people are quick in using, that single action may determine how others perceive them. Susan David describes this in a 2016 interview.
In such situations, it is essential to think about other things these people did. Thus allowing us to see more of the person and what one values and likes about them. Seeing the whole person means to avoid snap judgments. It also means to let oneself be more objective about that person instead of making oneself subject to the one-time event.
This is true about actions we like as much as about actions we don’t like.
When it comes to our own emotions we may lack that same nuance.
There are four core emotions people name most easily: anger, fear, sadness, and joy. And in doing so people may stick to do it in a very broad manner. They would for example say “I am angry” or “I am sad”.
Sharing our emotions can be a very constructive part of our conversation. But, if the shared emotion remains a general statement, it rarely is. It is foremost the lack of description of what the emotion is about that makes it very unspecific. It can also be using a core emotion instead of a more nuanced one that would describe the emotion more adequately.
Interestingly, such a general statement has the same impact on oneself as on the other. Without a context, the emotion becomes all-encompassing. Instead of being clear about what is affected by the emotion and what it is, people allow that sense to hide everything unrelated. It leaves no visibility to the many other areas of our day or relationship that have not been affected by that trigger.
Saying “I’m angry that you are late for our appointment” is a very different message than “I’m angry”. Sticking to the latter is like a snap judgment. Being specific as in the first statement contains the emotion in its context, leaving the rest of our experience unincumbered. It also eases taking action on the situation.
Luckily this is a two-way street.
If we assume that it is as difficult to verbalize emotions and perceptions as it is to move away from the snap judgment, we can focus on our lack of understanding. Not understanding becoming the trigger to help each other become more specific. It serves to make the conversation more constructive. And, it is as easy as asking questions.