The Meaning is in the Response

This concept, that the meaning of what you say or do is in the response of the listener, is a useful concept for therapists. Interestingly, when you use this principle, it allows you to develop a strong enough relationship where you can say things to people that you otherwise would never dream of saying. It creates safety for another if you pay attention in this way.

I am going to a mandatory sexual harrassment training at work today. This is a situation where the meaning of what you do is directly related to the response. If I pick my nose, and someone thinks that means I am being sexual, then I have to refrain from picking my nose around that person. But only if they let me know that it is a problem for them.

It is pretty frightening to think about, and cuts both ways.  One situation where saying ‘the meaning is in the response’ builds rapport and safety in a relationship, and another where you are always in danger of having your behavior construed as sexual harrassment.

Update on training:

      I went and learned that there is a ‘reasonable person’ standard for jusging the merit of sexual harrassment allegations. ‘Reasonable’ equals what the majority of Americans would be thought to conclude when presented with the facts. But it remains true, apart from questions of reasonability,  that if someone tells you to stop doing something in the workplace, and they have to do it twice, at the very least an allegation of harassment might very well hold up.


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