Saturday 13 April 2024

#507 Conversation wars

"You're suggesting I don't reschedule the session, but use it to talk about the future, rather than the past" I said "as an alternative".

"Yes, your understanding is correct" he replied. I paused for a moment, then thanked him, explaining that I considered it more helpful to use the session for reflection and that I'd like to push it back a week, to give more time on which to reflect. He was ok with this.

Keeping our conversations on track had been difficult. I often felt like I wasn't heard. His suggestion about not rescheduling the session had been based on so many incorrect assumptions that it irritated me.

Normally, I would've ignored it. But sometimes the points we ignore come back to bite us. So I restated it, as if to check my understanding, which was how the restatement was interpreted.

It was subtle but it validated him. Created some common ground on which I could more confidently assert, again, that I wanted to push back the session. Which is why I'd contacted him to begin with.

We ended the conversation on the same page, for a change.

Interactions don't happen in isolation. They form part of indecipherably complex webs of signals, assumptions, intentions, history, rationales, feedback and noise. Some parts play out in patterns, which often go unrecognised.

Had he offered the alternative because he hadn't heard, or understood me properly? Maybe it was because I'd seemed in need of a suggestion during a previous interaction, and he was overlaying that experience onto this one. Maybe he simply perceived a more general need for guidance in me. Or maybe he just didn't like the thought of the session being rescheduled, for one reason or another.

We don't always know why other people respond the ways they do. Or why we have a particular reaction to them. Even when we do have a hunch, it isn't always easy. I knew patterns like this had a way of repeating themselves. My minor active listening, the humble restatement, had got me out of this situation but there would be more where it came from. Much more.

Begun, the conversation wars had.