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Chapter 29. Developing Your Emotional In... > Controlling Our Interpretation of Ev...

Controlling Our Interpretation of Events

Your emotional reactions to events are greatly affected by the meaning you give to them. For example, if you believe someone’s rudeness is due to high levels of stress you will be less upset than if you see the rudeness as a sign of lack of respect for you. Similarly, if someone is late with an assignment you will probably be less upset if you attribute it to the person having ADHD or a personal tragedy, than if you believe it is due to lack of concern for the project and the people on the team. How we interpret events has a tremendous impact on our emotional reactions and subsequent behavior. Meanwhile, people often have biases in their interpretation of events that systematically affect the meanings the events have for them.

Rather than keeping an open mind people frequently jump to conclusions about the motivations of others. Moreover, people tend to jump to the conclusions that they fear the most. For example, people who are particularly sensitive to being devalued sometimes interpret others as devaluing them when it is not actually occurring. Similarly, many people observe annoyance on someone’s face and assume it is aimed entirely at them. Some people will take an additional step and believe that the annoyance is a sign that they will soon be fired. This both leads to distress and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, believing that someone thinks poorly of you or is about to fire you is likely to upset you, damage your performance, and then lead the person to actually be upset with you.


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