Have you ever made an assumption about what someone else is feeling or thinking and then found out you were way off? All too often, our assumptions about others reveal more about us than they do about them. In this Emotional Push-Up, Dr. Emily is joined by brand marketing lead at Heard and founder of Fulwiler Media Michael Fulwiler to explore the meaning we assign to other people's words, intentions, and actions in order to better understand ourselves.
Thank you for listening! Staying emotionally fit takes work and repetition. That's why the Emotionally Fit podcast with psychologist Dr. Emily Anhalt delivers short, actionable Emotional Push-Ups every Tuesday and Thursday to help you build a better practice of mental health. Join us to kickstart your emotional fitness. Let's flex those feels and do some reps together!
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The Emotionally Fit podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health. Katie Sunku Wood is the show’s producer from StudioPod Media with additional editing and sound design by nodalab, and featuring music by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew!
Ready to break an emotional sweat? Welcome to Emotionally Fit with me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. As a therapist, I know that staying mentally healthy takes work and repetition. That's why I'll share Emotional Push-Ups, short, actionable exercises to help you strengthen your mental fitness. From improving your friendships to managing stress, let's flex those feels and do some reps together!
Hey there Fit Fans!
I am here today with Michael Fulwiler, brand marketing lead at Heard and founder of Fulwiler Media. Michael, thank you so much for being here today.Michael (:
Hi, Emily. Thank you for having me.Dr. Emily (:
Yeah. Michael, I want to tell you a story. So the other day, I was with a group of friends and I cracked a joke that I thought was pretty funny. People laughed, but one person who I didn't know as well gave me this look. In my head, this look meant that was a stupid joke and you shouldn't have said it and I don't approve. After that, I was in my head a little like, "Oh, shit. This person hated my joke and I never should have said anything and I kind of avoided them for the rest of the night."Dr. Emily (:
So then at the end of the night, I was going around saying goodbye to people. This person who gave me the look, came up to me and gave me a hug and said, "Emily, it was so great to meet you. I just want you to know that you're so clever. That joke you made earlier went over my head for a second, but then when it hit me what you meant, I laughed really hard."Dr. Emily (:
So Michael, I'm telling you this story not solely as a humble brag, but because it got me thinking about how often we assume we know how people feel and what they mean when they do or say things and that those assumptions might actually say more about us than they do about them. So I'm curious, what do you think about this? Has this kind of thing ever happened to you where you've made an assumption about how someone feels and then found out that you were way off?Michael (:
Absolutely.Dr. Emily (:
Yeah. I mean, in psychology we call this projection. It's like the things we don't want to face in ourselves, we kind of see in other people.Michael (:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It really comes up for me in a workplace setting.Dr. Emily (:
Yeah. That makes sense. I think work is one of the places that our relationships are a little less clear. So let's dig into that in our push-up. Today, we're going to be talking about the meaning we make around other people's words and intentions and actions and how we can get curious about that and use it as an opportunity to learn more about ourself.Dr. Emily (:
So step one of this push-up Michael is to think of something that someone has said to you recently, or something that has happened that has kind of rubbed you the wrong way. So maybe it was a colleague giving you feedback on your work, or maybe it was someone commenting on a social media post that didn't feel fair or thoughtful. So for those listening in, press pause while you think of your example, or keep listening to hear what Michael shares. So Michael, what example will you use for our push-up today?Michael (:
I will use the example of meeting with direct a report in a one on one. They were very quiet, not really responsive. I wasn't sure if it was because of something I was saying, if I was offending them, if I had said the wrong thing and definitely was in my head about that.Dr. Emily (:
Okay. That's a perfect example for this. So step two then Michael is to reflect on what meaning you made of that response. What assumptions did you have about why this happened, why they said it, or in your case, didn't say anything, what they meant, what they were trying to make you feel? So for my example of the person who gave me the weird look when I made my joke, I think my assumption was that they were offended by the joke, that they were annoyed with me for making the joke. That's what I assumed that look meant. So for you, Michael, in your example, what meaning did you make in the moment of this direct report staying silent and not saying anything?Michael (:
Yeah. I think the meaning that I gave to it may have been that I was overstepping or I was maybe micromanaging, maybe I was asking too many questions.Dr. Emily (:
Got it. Okay. So the meaning you made was that they felt like you were overstepping, that they thought you were asking too many questions.Michael (:
Right.Dr. Emily (:
Okay. That totally makes sense. Thank you for sharing that. So then step three of this push-up is to reflect on what your assumption could possibly teach you about yourself, your worries, your fears, your beliefs about yourself. I think often the assumptions we make about other people's intentions can point to times that we've been hurt or misunderstood in the past. They can point to unkind ways that we think about ourselves. So in my case, when I really dug into it, I think I assumed that this person was offended and annoyed when I made that joke because I know sometimes I can be impulsive and that people who are impulsive can annoy others.Dr. Emily (:
So sometimes I'll say things without thinking. Especially when I was young, I did this a lot and it got a negative reaction. Because I've seen this happen around me before, I'm now very vigilant and I can be really hard on myself for it. So if I even detect a little of it happening, I jump right to that place. Someone else who saw that same look on that person's face might have assumed something completely different about what they were feeling. So in this moment it really said more about me than it did about them. The assumption was about my own worries.Dr. Emily (:
So for those listening in, take a moment to reflect on what your assumption and the meaning you've made can teach you about yourself. Michael, how about for you, how might your assumption that this person thought that you were overstepping or that you were asking too many questions, how might that be more a reflection of your own worries or experience?Michael (:
I think it's absolutely a reflection of my own worries because when I think about how I like to be managed and how I don't like to be managed at work, I really don't respond well to feeling micromanaged. It feels very disempowering. That's probably something that I can project onto people that I am managing. So I think it's important for me to be aware of that, and that even if I feel that way, that doesn't mean that the other person feels that way.Dr. Emily (:
Yeah. That's well said. It feels like you've said a few things here, because I think what you kind of implied was that this has happened to you, that you have felt like someone disempowered you by being this way. So there is that way in which the assumptions we make about other people's intentions might point to how we've been treated. So it sounds like that's part of it. But then it also sounds like maybe you have just worries about yourself as someone who is not being empowering in every moment and so there's also the feeling of what you might be putting into that person. Does that sound right?Michael (:
Yeah, absolutely.Dr. Emily (:
Amazing. So really that's the whole push-up right there. We don't need to do anything about this right away. The idea is that if every time we make an assumption about another person's intentions, we pause to reflect on what it might actually teach us about ourself. We would just avoid a lot of heartache. I think it would keep us from getting ourselves into trouble because we have decided what someone else means and we're not really right. I think it would also give us an opportunity to become more self-aware and to grow and to maybe have compassion about the parts of ourselves that are tender and have worries. So Michael, how did it feel to do this push-up today and to think about this moment in that way?Michael (:
No, I think it's an important reminder that often our response is more about ourself and our own experience than about the situation that we're in. So it's important to take that beat to reflect and think, "Is this what's really going on? Or is this just because of me and what I'm bringing to the situation"?Dr. Emily (:
That's perfectly said. I mean, it happens all the time. This is super just human and normal that we do this, but by bringing just a little awareness to it, we can really change the effect it has on our life. So Michael, I really appreciate you flexing your feels and breaking an emotional sweat with me today. It's always such a pleasure to speak with you.Michael (:
Thank you so much for having me.Dr. Emily (:
Thanks for listening to Emotionally Fit hosted by me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. New Push-Ups drop every Tuesday and Thursday. Did you do today's Push-Up alongside me and my guest? Tweet your experience with the hashtag #EmotionallyFit and follow me at @DrEmilyAnhalt. Please rate, review, follow and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts. This podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health, where you can take live, therapist-led classes online. From group sessions to therapist matchmaking, Coa will help you build your emotional fitness routine. Head to joincoa.com, that's join-c-o-a.com, to learn more. And follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @joinCoa. From StudioPod Media in San Francisco, our producer is Katie Sunku Wood. Music is by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew!