BY JENNY B
“I did what I did, to save our friendship.”
“I met up with the guys last night and talked about if I should even tell you what happened…”
“I don’t talk about what it’s like at work, because it would probably only scare or worry you.”
These were the preamble to some of the worst conversations I’ve ever had. Regardless of the heavy content, the person delivering the news had attempted to script both sides of the conversation. In a gross overreach in preparing for a difficult conversation, it seemed as though each of these significant people in my life had over rehearsed the questions or lines of dialogue they imagined would follow. They had numbed themselves to being able to listen or remain curious about my actual reaction in the moment. In the worst case scenarios, they tried to explain how they had already taken action based on ‘how well they knew me’ and ‘what was best.’
Now, I don’t know about you. But, I would prefer to be approached as an equal partner in decisions affecting my life. Where that is not possible or ‘the ship has already sailed’, at least come to deliver the news, regarding me as a worthy adversary against adversity.
I bring this up in sincere reflection about dialoguing with another person versus self-talk. In so many instances, our discussions with others, especially important relationships in our lives, feed into the content of our self-talk and vice versa. However, even at their most heated and intense, these are not the same. Even while sorting out your own rich and complex self-talk, you must remain curious about the other person. Even if you anticipate what you might be triggering in their self-talk and your shared history of the relationship, bottom line is: You don’t get to own both sides of the conversation.
A graduate student on the path to become a professor or academic once told me he was taking an improv class, for fun. Picture ‘Whose Line is it anyway?’ or ‘Second City’. He said the best lesson was that even if you had thought of the perfect thing to say or do, you can’t get too hung up on it if other actors have jumped in and the moment to share it has passed. It comes across as you looking frozen and stilted while everyone else is acting and connecting ‘Live’. It doesn’t matter if what you had planned to say or do was brilliant, if it is out of synch when you say or do it.
Many of us prepare for difficult conversations, out of respect for the other person(s) who will be involved. Sometimes, wrestling with our own questions or the fear of triggering strong emotion causes us to rehearse what might be said. Don’t let your preconceived notions and self-talk overtalk the worthiness of the person and moment in front of you. Do the ‘Live’ show.
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