This document consists of selections (by L Cox)

from a paper by Milton Dawes

Taking Responsibility for the Meanings We Give

In this paper, Milton Dawes addresses the meanings we give, or assign, to various experiences or situations.

My (L Cox) selections from it are as follows:

If we are concerned about improving our relationships, we could start by becoming more alert to the ways we interpret and give meanings to our experience. For instance, this would include the meanings we give to what our partner is trying to communicate to us.

To expand this suggestion, we cannot be sure of the interpretations, or meanings, we assign to statements made to us by anyone. Nor can we always know the deeper meanings behind the words spoken to us by anyone.

We have the responsibility of allowing for the possibility of our own errors, mis-interpretations, or mis-evaluations.

We need to remember that our agreements as well as disagreements are based on our own interpretations and evaluations. We cannot know, understand or become acquainted with all that takes place in our environment or elsewhere.

We live in a dynamic world of change. Happenings and relationships are continuously changing ever so imperceptibly. We need to take this into account in our evaluations and predictions.

We cannot be absolutely sure that the way we have interpreted a statement or happening precludes other interpretations.

I (L Cox) take the liberty here of re-phrasing three assertions by Milton which I judge to be very important. They are:

1. We must INTERPRET happenings and remarks by others. We have no choice but to interpret.

2. Similarly, we must MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Again, we have no choice but to do so.

3. Thus we must expect some inaccuracy in our conclusions.

I would like to add that for these reasons we need to develop a habit of enquiry. That is to say, we must constantly question the interpretations, assumptions made by ourselves and others.

Another way of saying this is that when we can, we need to TEST the assumptions, interpretations, and theories of ourselves and others.

Milton's own assertions perhaps make a sharper impact than mine. They are:

"We cannot NOT interpret."

"We cannot NOT assume."

"We should expect some degree of inaccuracy in our interpretations."

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