Understanding vs Excusing Behaviors in Relationships and Conflicts

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 @ 2:00 PM

I've worked in the field of Mental Health Counseling for over eleven years and here is some of what I've learned regarding how we handle conflicts: How well or appropriately we are able to respond to the behaviors of others, draw boundaries and practice self care says a lot about our Emotional Intelligence (EQ), self esteem, self worth, personal identity and overall interpersonal effectiveness.

All too often when interacting with others we may be quick to judge a behavior, or on the other end of the extreme, we may be quick to excuse it away. Both can be equally destructive responses to those with whom we come in contact with. We often land on either of these extremes based on our own emotional overload, unresolved issues, negative thinking, or cognitive distortions. This is why its dangerous to react to another's behavior before examining our own emotions, thoughts and potential biases about what's happening.

Admittedly, there are exceptions to this rule. One determining factor that I like to use is, Safety. Safety includes protecting oneself or others from life threatening circumstances. In these instances, we would be remised not to take swift actions, quickly judging a behavior, in order to react in a way that keeps us safe.

Of course in this day and age we must be careful when using safety to make this distinction. There are currently to many cases where this determiner has been used as well as misused by powerful external forces to exact broad over reaching control on, and over, large masses and populations of people. This has been done with the claims to be in the best interest of public health and safety while stealing and ridding individuals of their inalienable rights. The former would be referring to a macro misuse of how such forces have dealt with and approached what has been deemed as life threatening, dangerous or risky behaviors. For the sake of this article, I am referring to individuals who are affected on a micro level as in interpersonal relationships.

For us as individuals, (outside of safety concerns) before we can either judge or excuse a behavior we must seek to understand it. Once we have done an thorough assessment (both long-term self work as well as briefly in the moment) of our own internal world, we then will stand in a powerful position to seek to understand another's corresponding behavior.

Before we can understand their behavior we must first acknowledge it, describing it in an objective, calm. rational, balanced way. We may only embark on this endeavor once we have properly addressed our own emotions, thoughts and biases using our EQ Skills. By unemotionally observing, accurately describing and properly labeling what actions we see, we help defuse the emotional charge that is often misappropriated towards said behaviors.

Ultimately, its not about their behavior but our reaction to them that prevents this required, needed process. Unfortunately, we may miss our chance to objectively observe and describe, when we overcloud and over look their behaviors with our own gross over reactions which prevent it. When we aren't Emotionally Intelligent we deny the other party, as well as ourselves, the opportunity to learn and grow from these experiences.

It's also important and worth noting that we need to clearly decipher and differentiate between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Seems simple enough, but try explaining the difference between concepts such as "anger" and "aggression," "crying" vs "sadness" or "happiness" vs "laughter." If you ever have or requested others too, you would understand the dilemma. However in order to proceed there can be no ambiguity in the matter. We must be clear that one category represents actions and the other feelings.

Once we accurately describe and label the observable behavior, we then have a few choices. We can either examine it on our own to better understand it. This may involve a type of grope in the dark of the "why's." We also on the other hand could examine it in a way that helps us determine our next steps. Our next steps may be to accept, overlook, ignore it or confront it with the party involved addressing it head on.

It should be noted that "overlooking," is often seen in many of those with "Self Sacrificing Schemas" described in the Other Directness category found in my Schema Therapy Course. It can also be identified in what's known as the Subjugation Schema. Either Schemas may result in deep seated anger, resentment and even health issues. No doubt the result of not confronting, identifying, expressing or addressing personal wants, needs, desires or feelings in emotionally healthy ways.

On the other hand we may choose to present (where safe to do so) our observations to the other party. Here, our decision would be to confront it, giving the other party the chance and opportunity to help us make sense of it. In this step of the process we may want to share (using "I" statements) how the behavior has affected us.

We could then decide if we need to draw a boundary around that behavior in order to stay safe or hold the person accountable. Drawing boundaries however isn't about controlling others. Boundaries are about loving, respecting, and honoring ourselves. Boundaries are about controlling ourselves, our own actions, our movements, and our willingness to receive or ingest what is being offered or submitted towards us, (including our emotions, mental cognitions/processes, energy, time, personal space, bodies, dwelling space, money, possessions or belongings). In fact, we must avoid all attempts at controlling the behaviors of others. We must understand that we only control ourselves. We must hold others accountable to control themselves.

In some instances (where its safe to do so), we can help and assist others in controlling their own behaviors by having open honest effective communications and dialogue as well as putting proper boundaries (in some instances consequences) in place. When doing so we must be absolutely sure to follow through on them.

However, because so many of us avoid, hate confrontation, or worse, its not safe, we often rob others and ourselves of the potential growth and development opportunities that could happen within us supportively challenging their negative behaviors. We also rob ourselves of potential valuable relationship strengthening, building and connection experiences when we work together to resolve impasses. At the very least or even best we may miss an opportunity to untangle and free ourselves, while escaping toxic situations.

Long story short, EQ and the related skills presented in my Emotional Intelligence Course will help and acts as a starting place to accomplish our Interpersonal Relationship Goals. If you are interested in learning more about how to successfully learn and practice these skills go to https://linktr.ee/epiphanytanya and click on courses.

Thank you for reading. Send me a message to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing of and seeing your work in this area.