non judgement

Welcoming Sprout's newest counselor, Jemima King LCPC

Blog post by Jemima King

Several years ago I pieced together some fabric into a quilt.  I was moderately pleased with the quilt, but because of a series of random events (moving, broken sewing machines, etc), I didn’t pick up that quilt again until this year.  

Straight off I noticed several things:  1.  What I thought was a wonderfully constructed quilt, was in fact, poorly done.  The corners didn’t match up, so triangles became weirdly misshapen, seams didn’t come together in straight lines, several pieces of fabric came together and were lumpy instead of smooth, etc.  2.  The raw materials I chose were a mixture of high quality and some cheap horribleness—you can tell! And, 3.  The color combo is, well, interesting.  

I began to doubt that it was even worth quilting because it’s a lot of work and subpar materials, combined with poor construction made for a judgment fest!  Ultimately, I decided that I did want to quilt it, because while it is nothing to write home about (but apparently, something to write a blog about!), this quilt represents so much of my growth as a quilter over several years.  Growth I had not remarked on, noticed, or paid particular attention to, simply because I moved on.

As I sat on the beach quilting, I began to realize, self-judgment and criticism, isn’t just limited to items we may have created years ago, but also often extends to how we are still anxious after years of trying everything to manage anxiety.  How we haven’t quite figured out that relationship.  Or how we haven’t got that job we wanted to have by this time in our career.   We look at who we are and think; I am not good enough.   I did a horrible job.  I should have known X.  Or I should have done Y better.  We only see what we should have or could have done differently.  

And so, we miss out on how we have grown and what we have learned.  What came out of the experience we are so quick to judge?  What did I learn in the process of that event/conversation/experience that I now use to do better?  We miss how we react differently now.  That today we made a choice we didn’t even know was a possibility last year, but now we can’t imagine not making.

From my sad quilting foray, I learned about something called nestled seams that allow several pieces of fabric to come together without lumps.   I also learned how much ironing makes a difference in every step of the process—something I previously did as infrequently as possible.    I don’t remember where I picked up on both of those skills, but they are a normal part of my every day quilting.

So my question for you today is, what have you done this week that would have been impossible or poorly done just a few short years ago?  What do you do now in your relationships that you didn’t think to do before?   What experiences or work opportunities do you have because of something you did a poor job of in the past?  What is your quilt moment? 

What can you take a minute today to celebrate as positive change and growth in your life?  

Misunderstood Part 3 by Stephan Gombis LCPC

How Stress, Blame and a Lack of Curiosity Prevent you from being Known

Part 3: Blame

What is blame?

Blame is assuming someone’s intentions with judgment. This is also called “Mind reading” and "Convicting”. 

Assumptions + Judgment = Blame

What is Blame?

Blame is the second way that a misunderstanding can occur. And this is because blame often involves assuming someone’s intentions without knowing the facts. Judgment or assuming devalues the other, putting them down and distancing you from responsibility, leaving you feeling superior and blameless.  In couples counseling this is known as contempt.  And contempt is a serious problem. According to marriage researcher John Gottman in his book, “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work," contempt is the highest predictor that a relationship will end in divorce.

People that blame don’t Always blame.

They do it when the conditions are right (or wrong depending on how you look at it). And the conditions tend to be right when our logic uses what I call, The 3 I’s.

The 3 I’s stand for:

1-No Information

2-No Intelligence

3-No Integrity

And it’s this logical sequence that leads us to blame. 

Let’s look at an example shall we?

Imagine having an argument with your spouse over his credit card spending. Where do you start? Information?

"Did you know our credit card bill is $2k this month?”

Why did you start there? You started there because you have the assumption that if he knew what you knew about the credit card, he’d celebrate your discovery and instantly repent of his ways.

But that doesn’t happen, does it? Frustrated by his response you move on to plan B…. No intelligence

“Honey, if we spend more then we make we will go into debt.”

You say it so sweetly.  And it’s true!  But the assumption here is that your partner doesn’t have the intelligence you have. So based on that assumption you need to dumb down the information during your second attempt.

So how does that usually work for you? Not very well right? He ends up feeling like you think he’s an idiot and you get even more frustrated because you worked hard to say it nicely and where did it get you? But you’re not quite ready to give up yet.

 With your last ounce of effort you try once more to be understood. The problem is… It’s your worst assumption yet. You assume your partner has no integrity. I mean why else would he reject the information you resented. And he can’t say he didn’t comprehend it because you even dumbed it down for him. 

“You don’t care about me and you obviously don’t care about our finances, so why don’t you just leave?”

This type of thinking and assuming drives a wedge between partners. We get to the point where we believe our partner is being evil. To side with them would mean we’re evil too. At this point what option do we have but to oppose them? And here in lies the problem with blame. 

It’s possible to build up a thoughtful case against our partner–even a very convincing one. But people aren’t islands; we don’t behave in a vacuum. We are social creatures that have the ability to impact each other. This is why former president John F. Kennedy famously said, “A society gets the criminals it deserves.” No we don’t “cause” our partner’s behavior, but we do co-create the environment that it exists in. And behavior remains in an environment in which that behavior is useful.

Imagine there was a pattern where your partner shopped online after the two of you had a fight. Perhaps shopping was your partner’s way of relieving stress? You didn’t cause your partner to shop, but you may have contributed to the environment being stressful.

How do you know if you’ve contributed stress to your relationship?

If you attacked him, overly-defended yourself or withdrew from the conversation (physically or emotionally); you played a role. And as much as you have the power to add to the stress, you also have power to relieve it.

One of my coaching tools to help spouses ease the tension in their relationships is what I call, The Oxygen Mask Exercise. And it goes like this…

Have two sheets of paper (one for each partner) and draw two circles (so it looks like a doughnut). In the smaller circle, write in your minimum non-negotiable needs on this issue. Note: It’s important to avoid “Padding it up” with non-essentials so there is still room for compromise. Then in the outer circle write in what you’d like, but can live without (list what’s negotiable to you on this issue).

 Next, ask your partner what needs are in their inner circle (AKA what they need to breathe in this situation) and acknowledge that those needs are important to you too.  Both people share.

Here’s an example:

Say your partner’s inner circle has the following listed:

“I need to know you like me and that you’re on my team”

You can then respond:

“I know that this has been a tough conversation. And I know how easy we can feel like we’re fighting for our lives here. I just want you to know that I do like you and no matter what, I’m on your team.”

 What you’re doing here is essentially telling your partner, “Here’s your oxygen mask, breathe freely.”


1-Blame is making a subjective judgment about someone else without seeing your part

2-Blame often requires making assumptions using the logical sequence of the 3 I's

3-Blame can be rational without being objective

So the next time you’re upset about something your spouse did and you want to be understood, remember to withhold the Three I’s that lead to blame and try to find out the facts without judgment. Use The Oxygen Mask Exercise to identify the heart of the matter, and listen carefully to your partner.

In the next article we’re going to turn our attention to the third and final reason that leads to being misunderstood; a lack of curiosity.