Cognitive Complexity

Illustration of the brain

Ok you have knowledge of your love language and you have knowledge of your loved one’s love language.

Wednesday the discussion was about how a person with a “comfortable” sense of self will have an easier time meeting the needs of others.

Yesterday we discussed the person who has the ability to exhibit a wide range of communication behaviors vs the person who has a limited repertoire of behaviors.

Today it’s all about cognitive complexity.

Wow where did that term come from?

Believe it or not, I was introduced to this idea in graduate school and today it is a key term in explaining why some people are good at understanding others and others are not.

Without boring you too much, let’s dig into it a bit.

Explaining with the use of extremes, let’s say that two types of people exist in the world:  ones with a high level of cognitive complexity and ones with a low level of cognitive complexity.

High level people can think about other people in a very complex way.  They construct “frameworks” which help them imagine what other people around them are experiencing.

Say someone seems to be mad at you.  They are a friend.  You go to church with them.  In fact that’s how you know them, through church.  You have worked on a project or two with them and have enjoyed the experience.  You thought they enjoyed working with you too.   Now they are upset and don’t seem to want to work with you anymore.  You have approached them about another upcoming project and have been rebuffed.  They seem irritated and frustrated and despite your friendly overtures, they are not indicating any interest in working with you.

Let’s look at this from a low level view.

“This person hates me.”

That may be the only explanation you come up with regarding this person’s behavior and you are sticking to it.  You really don’t try to understand any more.

Let’s look at this from a high level view.

“In the past, we got along so something has changed.  This person might hate me because I have done something to offend but I can’t really imagine what that would be.  This person has had a very sick spouse.  Maybe the pressure of caring for the spouse is getting to them.  I heard from another friend that the person’s job has become more demanding.  It is taking more hours from their day and they are having to learn new stuff.  This person loves to work on projects at church, especially creative projects and maybe they are upset that they are having to choose between work and their creative impulses.  Maybe they have become mean.  Maybe they are going through a health problem and they are sick and they refuse to share that information.”

Many of you may prefer the low level view.  It’s simple and after you come up with the conclusion, you can move on to other things.

However, many people who study communication feel the low level view ignores reality.  People are complex and they have different viewpoints and different motivations for their behavior.

How does all of this relate to Dr. Chapman’s love languages?

He wants us to learn to speak a love language that is not our preference.  Using my situation as a particular example:  I score high on physical touch and words of affirmation.  My wife scores high on acts of service and quality time.  How am I going to provide love language messages that she needs?

I am going to have to imagine what acts of service and quality time activities will please her.  Without that ability to create a framework that would fit her love language needs, I will never be able to speak the language she needs.

What is my tendency: to approach her with physical touch or words of affirmation.   Both of those love languages don’t work for her.

I am going to have to create a new framework for my wife outside of my world.  I am going to make an effort to understand her world, her needs.  I don’t need to make her become me.  She is fine the way she is.

I just need to increase my ability to use cognitive complexity.

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