We have probably all had the experience of being in the middle of a fight with our partner and thinking to our self… “That is absurd. How can you possibly think that? You have got it all wrong.” It is my contention that those thoughts are an indication that I have totally lost my neutrality and that my non-verbal behavior is about to become dismissive, invalidating and maybe even condescending.
I generally know my partner to be thoughtful and reasonable. Why do I doubt that now? Well it is probably because she is disagreeing with me. She sees something differently from me. My sense of self is threatened and I feel an urge to fight back and assert my superior knowledge or right to my own opinion. It is actually my own insecurity that is taking command of the ship.
If I presume that everything she says, thinks and does makes total sense (to her) from within her own perspective I would never look down on her and become arrogant and dismissive. If her ideas do not make sense to me it means that I have not taken the time to inquire into her world view to see how it makes sense to her. That needs to be my next job at those moments.
When I say, “You are not making sense!” I am actually saying, “You are not making MY sense.” How pompous I must sound at those moments.
~ Dr. Howard Lambert

8 Responses - click here to join the conversation to “PRESUMING SANITY”

  1. Howie….great post!…. John

  2. This is a thought and action-provoking post. It inspires me to remember to look past my own “world view” – especially in the midst of contentious conversations. Sometimes it seems that relationships would be much easier to navigate if only we all had the “same brain.” Alas, if that were the case, I suspect we’d all be bored stiff!
    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Suzanne Mariner

  3. Thank you, Howie! Such a timely reminder – one that I seem to need all too often. From my work with Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy (, I recognize that I and my beloved have come from two separate worlds to join together in relationship. When I am self-righteously pushing my position, I am discounting the customs, language, beliefs and perspectives of his world. I need more often to cross the bridge into his land, to be able to see it through his eyes. And, I also need to invite him to visit me in my world, so that each of us can truly “get” the other’s perspective. From this mutual understanding, we can often generate a creative new approach to what was troubling us to begin with.

  4. Howie,
    Sure makes a lot of sense.


  5. Mary Simon says:

    I agree how important it is to “HUMBLY own my reality!” I find both I and those I relate to feel better if I am open to the idea that their point of view might actually enhance and/or expand mine – sometimes (GOD FORBID!) it might even lead me to change some of my views. It’s how we can all keep learning and growing, I believe..
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  6. I am glad my thoughts have prompted so much chatter on the net. Howie

  7. I think the reason people do this, i.e. get invested in being right, and viewing the other person as being wrong, is because some unconscious pain has just been brought to the surface by something the other person did. This is a triggered state. You have now left here and now. It is helpful to focus in on what the emotional trigger is, such as feeling not respected, or feeling not good enough and so on. Usually when someone has a triggered response they are trying to run away from feeling one of those kinds of feelings. But if you face it square on, and explore where it came from, it’s much easier to not shoot it back at your partner as an attack.

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