Skip to main content

Creating Positive Perceptions

In the last two posts I discussed  how The Fundamental Attribution Error and Confirmation Bias form a dangerous pair, creating a negative image of your spouse in your mind. This pair affects all 'ongoing' relationships, including your relationship with your colleagues.

I chanced upon a wonderful book called Miller's Bolt by Thomas Stirr. It is about a process for improving relationships with colleagues. But it is very general and can be used in all circumstances.

Some key insights from the book.

First
In Patiala in India some years back the police tattooed 'jeb katri' or 'pickpocket' on the foreheads of a few women. Imagine you are chatting with somebody who has pickpocket tattooed on their forehead. Will it affect your behavior? In most cases - yes.

We put a negative label on our spouses, affecting our behavior with them, and they do the same. It is a vicious cycle. The ONLY way to break out of this vicious cycle is you take a decision to change your attitudes and behavior. It cannot be 'conditional'. You have to commit to changing without worrying about whether the other person will change.

Second
No relationship is static. It is either in a vicious cycle and becoming worse over time or it is in a virtuous cycle and becoming better over time.

The process given in the book is simple but you have to follow it exactly.

Take a piece of paper.
Write down all the words that come to your mind when you try to describe your spouse.
On the other side of the paper write down the words that describe your interactions with each other.

Look at the words and pick the words that have a negative connotation and replace them with words which have a positive or neutral connotation.

Here is an example of this with a few words

Stubborn (Persistent)
Pessimistic (Realistic)
Picky (Detail Oriented)
Insensitive (Straight Forward)
Careless (Absent minded)

Spend a few minutes every morning meditating or deep-breathing. Replay or Anticipate some incidents in your mind and visualize yourself responding positively to that behavior, using an affirmation.

The book gives a useful acronym to create the affirmation.
WIPE out your old behavior

Want (What you want to happen)
I (Make it personal)
Present Tense (Use the present tense)
Emotion (Use a positive emotion)

So this is a hypothetical example of how I used it. The actual situations are a little personal :-)

Assume your spouse has been after you for the last 3 months to do something that you don't want to. You have been thinking stubborn b***** and behaving in either of these ways

a. Pretending to be hard of hearing
b. Snapping angrily - Dont bug me
c. Agreeing to do it and not doing it

The affirmation could be
I appreciate his / her persistence. I speak calmly and find out what is motivating him / her.

So every morning, meditate or do some deep breathing and use a few positive affirmations.

As we have seen in the Confirmation bias post, your brain only 'notices' what is has been sensitized to notice. This process of deep breathing and making positive affirmations will change the sensitization of your brain.

Another key lesson in that book is that this is an ongoing process. You have to meditate and make positive affirmations everyday for the rest of your life. Do I still do it, yes I do. I am blessed with a long commute, I spend the commute with my eyes closed, meditating.

Miller's Bolt was a gateway book for me. After reading that book, I have learned so much more but the simple process given in the book is certain to make a difference.

I will share more options and thoughts on how to change a negative relationship to a positive one in my future posts.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Weddings - Symbols and Messages

When I got married, I spent my wedding days in a daze. My parents, my in-laws, the officiating priest gave me instructions and I blindly followed them. This is normal . During an Indian wedding there are a huge variety of rituals to be carried out. They vary based on the region you come from, the sect you belong to, and traditions followed in your family. In my opinion, they all have one thing in common, the bride and groom are totally disconnected from the entire spectacle that is playing out around them. Now my son Prahalad is getting married to Sneha and I will watch them go through an identical experience. So I started wondering how I could help them make sense of the crazy few days they are going to experience. I have a wonderful idea Me, I am an engineer and so I had this wonderful idea. Compare the wedding ceremony to F=ma. That is Newton's Second Law of Motion. If you understand the symbols and what they stand for, then it is a very useful and powerful equation. If y

Accepting Your Wife in Marriage

I read a change management book a while back. It said that all changes follow identical phases. How long you spend in each phase may vary, but you will go through all the phases. The phases are inevitable. “Changes” are anything new - a new job, a new house, a new hobby, a new spouse, or a new way of doing things. When you initiated the change you did it because you felt the change would be for the better. Initially there is a honeymoon phase, you see all the nice things about the change. You are excited and happy. After a while you start noticing the drawbacks, the negative aspects of the change. You enter the disillusionment phase. You are upset and angry, you feel cheated. At this point three things can happen. Breakdown. You abandon the change, and go back to the old ways. You try to get another job, another house, abandon your hobby, or divorce your spouse. Trapped. You are unhappy but grit your teeth and go on. You feel trapped, stressed out. You continue in the

Giving up Tennis

In my previous post I was discussed how most people treat their marriage as a Tennis game. In Relationship Tennis you are trying to dominate your spouse and get them to behave as per your concept of the perfect spouse. If you are uncomfortable or unhappy in your relationship with your spouse, the first and most important step is to stop playing Relationship Tennis. Not easy. This post is about how you can stop playing Relationship Tennis. As I discussed in depth in my post Accepting your Wife in Marriage I decided that I want to improve my relationship with Vandana. When I talked to her about it, she thought it was one more strategy I was using in my Relationship Tennis. When I asked her what would convince her that I was serious, she threw me a challenge. The challenge was very simple, she said, "You never make the bed, for the next one year make the bed everyday and I might be willing to believe you." So the first step on the journey was that for one year I made the