Confabulation – A Key Relationship De-Railer

While listening to Brene’ Brown discuss her work on vulnerability, she discussed the concept of confabulation, which is a term to describe a condition people use to fill in memory gaps. As explained a person would fabricate experiences and facts to fill in for gaps in their memory and they feel their experiences are real. Brene’ states people fill in the blanks when faces with a situation with which they do not have complete information, and they believe what they confabulate. It is a lie told honestly. This is often done by people who have had a brain injury or trauma, but I believe we all do it as a means to make sense of what has occurred and need to make sense of it.

In previous blogs, I have written about the story people make up when they experience something that they are unsure of what has taken place. They may interact with another person and be confused by what was said or done and construct a story about what has just taken place. For example, your supervisor may walk in with a frustrated look on his or her face and you immediately think you have done something wrong. It becomes compounded when you share your perception with another person and they too, accept it as fact. Then for the rest of the day you may avoid your supervisor when in fact, they may be upset because they just noticed someone backed into their vehicle and left without saying anything! In another instance you may be speaking with a friend and they do something that you perceive was a little offensive and you decide that they are judging you and you no longer trust them. The truth may be that you misunderstood what the other person meant, but from that time forward you view what the person is doing through a filter that the other person is untrustworthy.

Problems occur when they do not take time to check in with the other person and take their “story” as fact, whether or not it is accurate! Every single day individuals confabulate and make up a story about what just occurred. The key is to check it out for authenticity. As Brene’ says one tool you can use is to go to the person and say you want to check things out. You can say when you ____________, the story I am telling myself is _____________, and I want to check it out to see if that is what you meant. Be open to hearing what the other person has to say and do not defend. After their conversation with you, think about their feedback to see if there are any opportunities to learn and grow. Thank them and decide what to do with the information. If it is the first time you have heard it file, it away to see if you get additional feedback in this area or check it out with a trusted advisor. If you have heard the information numerous times, decide if that is how you choose to be and if not identify what you need to change your behavior. In either instance, use it as a way to grow.

Your challenge this week:
Check out your perceptions to ensure that you are not confabulating and instead create open and honest communication.

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