I am naturally a very passionate and excitable person. As a result of this, I use superlatives on a regular basis, to the point where my closest friends can predict what I’m about to say when I try something new (like food) that I really enjoy. Whenever I’m eating at a new place, and my food is incredibly good, what typically comes out of my mouth is some form of…”Wow…that’s the best __________ I’ve EVER had!”.
Now, in my defense, whenever I say something like that, I TOTALLY believe it at the time…I’m being as genuine and in-the-moment as possible. Another example of this personality trait that I have, is that if I am feeling some extreme way, like really really cold, to the point of not being able to get warm, I literally, in that moment, CANNOT remember ever feeling hot. Even though I live in Dallas, where the average temp in the summer is 100+ degrees.
The funny thing about the information you’ve just learned about me is this….as a therapist, whenever my clients use superlatives, such as “I NEVER feel happy”, or “He NEVER says nice things to me”, I make it a point to not believe them, and typically, after a superlative like that, my very next question makes my disbelief respectfully clear.
For example, just this week, I had a therapy session with a couple who wanted to find a way to communicate more effectively without blowing up and arguing for hours whenever they had a disagreement. One of the partners said that they ALWAYS argue in that way whenever they disagree. So what was my VERY next question?
“When was the last time you had an opportunity for a huge blowout, but instead, argued in a more productive, calm, and respectful way?”
In that example…I just purposefully, but respectfully, took that superlative statement, and challenged it with a question making a HUGE assumption, that my client didn’t really mean what she just said.
The reason that I did that, is because I believe the next sentence in this blog is ALWAYS true:
No problem happens all of the time.
And in the case of that couple, even though I could tell that client felt like her statement was true when she said it, after I asked them that question…they were IMMEDIATELY able to remember a time in the very recent past, when they had an opportunity for a blowout argument, but instead had a very productive and respectful conversation. And the example that they gave me, offered us all some extremely useful information for what they can look out for as they continue to evolve their conversations around disagreements.
So, my challenge for you today is this:
The next time your feeling upset or frustrated with something that needs to get better fast, challenge yourself to remember the last time it was even just a LITTLE bit better…and refuse to believe that it has always been that bad, because there is TONS of useful & impactful information in your recent successes, (and you HAVE had recent successes!).
This blog was the MOST fun yet….
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW