[Crucial Conversations] People often attribute break-ups to differences of opinions

I am reading Kerry Patterson et. al’s book called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High . This will be a series of notes on this book where I jot down my thoughts.

Crucial conversation is defined as a conversation where:

  • opinions vary
  • Stakes are high
  • Emotions run strongly

Most couples, when asked why they broke up, often attributed the cause to a difference of opinions. That is, people have different theories about managing their finance, their offsprings and their lives in general.

However, because crucial conversations are defined through the 3 characteristics above, we can explain this phenomenon in terms of our tendency to diminish the effects of other causes upon retrospection.

When looking back at crucial conversations, we tend to look for the emotional cues first. However, because emotions dissipate overtime, we may forget how emotional the conversations were. Even if the feelings were intense, because the outcome was a break-up, we shy away from them as they trigger negative reponses and place them into the category of scary things. This prevents us from further inspecting the emotions in order to attribute them as a cause.

With regards about the high stakes characteristic, what seemed important back then may be lost in time, and thus no longer seems like a relevant factor in the situation. Even if it’s not forgotten, our perception about what is situationally important does seem to vary across time and situational space.

Thus, difference of opinions is the most reasonable cause that many people think are essentially responsible for their break-up. Our opinions are closely related to our own conception of self. Self-preservation mechanism very often overrides negative feedback, so we are more likely to hold our opinions constant and consequently more likely to think that conflicts between constants are the cause to negative outcomes.

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