UMBC Wellness in the Workplace

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February 2011: Language Series Practice #2 – “Differentiate fact from fiction”

In previous posts, we have looked at the difference between overall ‘phenomena’ and ‘stories’ and their effect on relationships. In the domain of language, another difference is ‘assertions’ and ‘assessments.’ Assertions are facts that other members of our community can agree upon – ‘Bob reports to Sue,’ ‘there are 3 more days until the weekend,’ etc. Assessments are our opinions and interpretations which are unique to the observer that we are – ‘Bob and Sue are in conflict,’ ‘the weekend is going to be stressful with the snow that’s expected,’ etc. We can’t help making assessments, and we make them with lightning speed. We get into trouble when we confuse these assessments with ‘the truth.’ When we mindlessly act as if our assessments are assertions, we increase the potential for conflict in our relationships.

There are times when after careful scrutiny, we find that our assessments are valid or ‘grounded.’ We will talk more next month about how to ‘ground’ our assessments but for this month, start paying attention to your language and notice when and how you use assertions and assessments in your conversations. When you catch yourself believing your assessment is the truth, simply notice this tendency from a place of curiosity. Notice how paying attention to speaking about things as facts or interpretations changes the conversations you have.