Monday, January 14, 2013

Reading Motives

Gentle Readers,

I have had something on my mind for a while now - a teaching which was offered to me within the last couple of years, and I'm offering it to you here, as a reminder to myself, and because it created a paradigm shift for me.

The concept is really quite simple and goes something like this: "read nothing into his/her motives". 

Merriam-Webster defines motive as "something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act".  Motives are why we do what we do - they go to intent.  Now, I know some of you who have read my writing on Intent v Rules are thinking to yourselves "but Bendy, you're all about intent, aren't you?"  Well, yes and no - in the Intent v Rules post, I'm writing about the context of relationships.  In this post, I'm writing about the context of interpretation.

Linguistically, one of the ways you will know you're reading into motive is through the use of 'because', and this can happen explicitly as well as implicitly.

Explicit reading into motives (in your thinking and speech) sounds like 'Amanda doesn't care about my needs, because she didn't do that thing I wanted her to do ', or 'Gary's irresponsible,  because he's late'.  Note the use of the word 'because'.  That's what makes the reading explicit.

Implicit reading into motives (in your thinking and speech) sounds like 'Amanda doesn't care about my needs,' or 'Gary's irresponsible'.  The 'because' is still there- it's just not stated, and in that way it's implicit.

Motive-reading can get somewhat insidious.  If you say something like 'Gary's late' (which may be factually accurate), and then have the thought 'disrespectful asshole!', guess what?  You're reading into motive. 

If your mind is anything like mine, it's an expert at generating motive.  I am sometimes convinced that drivers are fuck-faced jerks with no regard to anyone around them - most of all me.  The motive I'm reading is the "jerk-faced-ness with ill regard", in case you're having difficulty tracking this. 

I repeat: I am an expert at reading motive.  

By the way - so are you. 

Have you ever heard someone say 'but he's my boyfriend.  He should want to do blah-dee-blah with me,'?  Oh really?  How's that working out for you?

Oh - or how about this one?  Your car battery is dead, and you kick the tires and say 'you fucking fuck!' Reading into motive.  What - are you seriously going to tell me you've never blamed an inanimate object for your upset?  Honestly??

Stuff happens.  People say things.  People take action. People don't take action.  All that happened is that something was said or (not)done.

I invite you to join me in becoming so completely unable to read motive, it might as well be the language of some distant planet that exploded 4,000,000,000 years ago.

People don't pressure you - they say and do things, and you read a motive that they are pressuring you.  

People aren't disrespectful - they say and do things, and you read a motive that they are disrespecting you.

People aren't uncaring, because they haven't met your expectation of them.  They are simply doing and saying what they are doing and saying.  

Now, why is reading into motive something of which to be aware?  I'm all about personal power; how to cultivate it, how to store it, contexts in which it can be exchanged, etc.. When you focus on the why of another's actions or words, you are disempowered, and PS - you're disempowering them.  

Empowered relating to people's behavior comes from neutrality.  

Gary was late. That's what happened.
Amanda didn't do what you hoped she would.  That's what happened.

Now, what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to get all up in someone else's business, or are you going to be in your power, and see that your reading of the events in your life are your business - and solely yours to change? 

You want punctuality? Ask for it.  You don't need to make someone disrespectful for it.  

You have a need that isn't being met?  Say what it is.  Simply. You don't need to make someone uncaring because of it.

You need to jump your car battery?  Get out your cables, flag someone down and jump the car battery. You don't need to make your car wrong for it.

If you want the world to be other than it is, start being other than you are, because I guarantee you.  Nobody is going to do it for you.



  1. Reminds me of what my old therapist (you'll hear my reference her a lot, btw, she was brilliant) warned me about "mind reading." I would say, "He did this because he insert whatever motive here." "Oh really?" she would say, "now you read minds?" (after of course, explaining and discussing the ascribing motives thing and helping me to incorporate it into my self-talk.) She was from the Northeast, btw, so straight talk and sarcasm were part of our dialog :)

  2. Ok. 2 posts in and I love your blog. Nice reminder to control what you can (yourself) and not allow negativity to dominate your thoughts.