People tend to judge the meaning of an action from the outside, and often fail to see what’s inside of the person’s mind doing the act. Most romantic relationships fail because the jealous partner only sees the social meaning of the external act of the other but not the motive behind it.
One girlfriend just broke up with her boyfriend when she saw him chatting with a beautiful girl from afar. She interpreted the animated conversation of the two as a form of romantic attraction. Without asking the boyfriend about the girl and what they were talking about, she immediately stopped texting and communicating with him. She eventually broke up with his boyfriend without clarifying with him of what actually happened during that animated encounter with another girl.
Max Weber, a German sociologist, has a very good advice for people who want to judge the meaning of people’s interaction. He called this approach as “verstehen” or “interpretive understanding”. This concept implies that a person must judge behavior from the actor’s point of view. If one really wants to understand the true meaning of the human action, he or she must put himself/herself into the shoes of the other.
“Verstehen” implies understanding the social meaning of the person’s external act or the stereotype and the motive behind the act. It requires empathy. Without learning the motive of the act, the observer would pass rash judgment and misjudge the true significance of the act. The girl could have investigated or probed further on what was really the motive why his boyfriend had an animated conversation with the other girl.
Many romantic partners and spouses separate because they pass rash judgment, they only know the meaning of their partners’ external acts but fail to understand the real intentions underneath them. Jealously and other forms of negative emotions can sometimes cloud their judgments and forget to probe what actually happened with their partners’ or spouses’ encounters with the significant other.
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