In the event that you find yourself in a conversation with someone and you feel as though they are responding to you, on the verge of what might be considered a debate, based on assumptions of how they think you feel, what your opinions are, your loyalties, politics, etc… What if at that moment you took the opportunity to ask that person “What do I think?” Ask them to tell you what you (yes you) think, what your opinion is, etc… See how they respond.
I am sure we al have found ourselves in a situation where we recognize that our own responses in a conversation indicate some level of defensiveness. We may even start arguing a line of thought we don’t really believe in simply because we have switched tracks from the act of reasonable, objective communication and are now barreling headfirst down an emotional path of preservation through perseverance. Does this sound a little dramatic? Probably. But that’s how it is sometimes.
I know this sounds like a defensive tactic, a way to shield yourself, and for some that may be the best way they can use this tool. That may be what they need in those moments. A shield. A way to deflect and buy time to recompose, maybe tell themselves that they are not being attacked, but that the other person might feel the same way. It’s time to reel it in.
However, if one were to employ this strategy in a warm and engaging way, might there be a chance to bring about a breakthrough moment. It ceases to be a defensive pause and becomes an active redirection, much like the dynamics and philosophy of Aikido (a good summation can be found here). While I have problems with the idea of manipulating another person, I think of this as a sort of benevolent manipulate, one born from compassion and not trickery or a smug sense of moral supremacy. I imagine it being said in a warm, deferential, perhaps charming way. The responder, taken aback by the thought of having to inform you of your own opinion might then realize—hopefully with a (possibly mental) chuckle—that they are basing their responses on a string of assumptions, speaking to the idea they have of you rather than who you actually are. With any luck, this will return all involved to a state of active listening and inquiry, a state where effective communication can occur. The body and mind are lead by impulse when driven by emotions, not by consideration.
02:27 – A thought kept me awake which is worth noting. The above scenario does depend on one crucial unstated element, admittedly a naive assumption on my part. That being the element of honesty. As with almost everything good, or intended to do good, the above behavior can be used to tactfully shield a person and provide an easy escape wherein they simply respond with a popular opinion (which they do not believe and is therefore a lie) that will absolve them of further confrontation or frustrate the other person doesn’t want to talk to them anymore.
Ergo, I suppose we haven’t learned anything. Using Aikido philosophy/compassionate redirection/benevolent manipulation/etc… might not be worth it. Try it if you’d like and hopefully the people you choose to engage with are honest and interested in talking, growing, and learning, but since I have been reading Amy Chua’s book Political Tribes in which she mentions studies revealing that group/tribal bias begins very young (as early as three months old) chances are every is hiding something, consciously or otherwise, behind their implicit bias.
So ultimately, people can really suck. Talking to people will always be a gamble. Try and always be nice. (and maybe they will too?) We’re all in this together.
Be the change you wish to blah blah…*
Don’t stoop to their level and all that…
*I genuinely do believe this, just feeling a little exhausted. (Also, no. Gandhi did not actually say this, though you can extrapolate this idea from the following quote.)
We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.Mahatma Gandhi