The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Holding on to being right

Sometimes, the best thing we can do in a conversation is to step back and take a look at how it unfolds.

One of these moments is when being right emerges as an objective. It’s the moment when cooperation is disappearing from the conversation.

That is when It becomes focused on either persuading the other of one’s point of view or on holding on to being right oneself. While this might sometimes be necessary, useful, or even fun it does transform how the relationship is experienced in that moment. Instead of being one where cocreating a conversation is how those involved relate to one another, it has become a conversation focused on the individuals.

A subtle discomfort appears. The fight, flight, or freeze reaction set in.

Wanting to persuade someone else works like an attack mechanism. At least that’s how it will often feel for the person who is asked to let themselves be persuaded. They are asked to change.

Staying in one’s point of view without changing anything has something of a freeze reaction. Nothing shifts in the conversation. It stalls. But the connection is lost.

Shifting away from the subject to avoid changing anything corresponds to a flight mechanism. It is leaving no space for further comments and avoiding to be impacted.

There is nothing wrong with either of these reactions.

They all can be the best thing one can do in a given situation. Sometimes the desire to persuade is fueled by a desire to protect the other. Sometimes letting go of the subject helps to protect oneself. And both might be useful.

It’s up to the individuals to decide what their investment in the conversation is for.

That is, what learning to see the different dynamics helps us with. Stepping back helps to stay aware of being on track towards one’s objective. Or not.

It is a subtle mechanism. One we might find hard to notice during a conversation or perceive as relevant. That’s because we are so used to them. We handle them all the time.

A conversation is like a dance.

Sometimes we’ll notice that our partner is resisting a bit more than usual. Or, that we have to bring up more energy to stay in the dance. Once dancing involves such efforts it becomes somewhat rigid. Both of them pulling into slightly different directions.

It’s still a dance. But now it involves the need for status.


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