Seeing patterns and generalizing from them is a crucial human skill. Scientists, business owners, and most capable people develop the ability to spot patterns in human behavior.
Yet, sometimes we make sweeping generalizations that exaggerate or oversimplify reality. Taking one unfortunate incident and jumping to conclusions can create problems.
Even if someone does tend to repeat certain types of behavior, it is not helpful to make overgeneralizations. People get defensive when you say, “You never show appreciation.” “You spend all your time with your friends instead of with me.” “You always interrupt me.”
It’s more effective to be specific and talk about one incident at a time. Limit yourself to specific facts, and focus on a desired solutions.
For instance, if you seek appreciation, you can ask, “Isn’t this dinner I cooked delicious?”
Instead of complaining about someone’s frequent absence, you could suggest, “I’d like to spend some time with you. When can we get together?”
To get someone to stop interrupting, you could say, “Please let me finish” each time you’re interrupted.
Specific positive requests are more likely to get you what you want than gross generalizations.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD