It is possible to examine a conversational segment in order to discover what works and what doesn't. The roots of many successful and unsuccessful human interactions can be found by examining conversational segments.
By activating the Objective Observer, one can stand apart and above a conversational segment in order to examine successful and dysfunctional conversational interactions.
Conversational skills are a relevant and important area for psychosocial examination in order to understand conversational patterns. By doing so, psychosocial science can discover those elements that contribute to producing successful and effective conversational skills.
For example: John asks Mary a question, when he is, in reality, making an emotional statement. Mary responds naturally to the question and fails to pick up John's underlying statement, which he failed to communicate correctly and directly to Mary. She gives the answer that he does not wish to hear and he viciously attacks her. She is brutalized, hurt and deeply dismayed by his behavior. She defends herself and in the process chastises and rejects John. She follows this with a lot of rule setting and he rebels as if he is reacting like a child to his mother. The battle escalates and the relationship goes into the hopper and both people are alienated.
Let’s examine two of the most common and destructive conversational pitfalls/snafus in the following paragraphs.
A common conversational style – Rapid fire or pressured speech - is driven by anxiety and a competitive need to be heard and listened to. When used, rapid fire or pressured speech does not give the listener time to hear and retain the basic and most important feeling aspect of a sent message. Pressured speech also keeps the message sender from focusing on the deep feeling aspect of the real message. Instead, a sea of words is sent out like a tsunami that overwhelms the listener and frustrates the sender from being truly heard. Intentions are honorable, but the outcome can be troublesome and even disastrous.
Excessive, overwhelming rapid speech can be countered by the listener simply by saying, "Please slow down and backup. I don't wish to interrupt you, but I want to get the real message of what you just said before." By blocking the pressured and rapid fire sea of words, the listener causes the sender to go back and feel the full emotion of the real message. It also allows the listener to empathically fall into the real message that the sender unconsciously wishes to be heard.
Together, they both can tune in and feel the underlying emotion that is really part of a simple communication. But, it requires feeling the full emotion and allowing the sender to empathically tune in and share in the same feeling. By activating the objective observer, the sender and consequently, the receiver can look at specific segments of speech in order to fully experience the underlying profound and real emotion. By so doing, they connect. However, if rapid fire, pressured speech continues, it could overwhelm the listener and trigger off a negative response.
People who have full access to their deep underlying feelings are able to communicate from that space quite easily. Others, who not have such full emotional access, will be caught in cerebral cognitive warfare and it can be quite destructive.
Issue a red flag when you encounter rapid fire speech and initiate a strategy that will slow down the tsunami of words and allow for the liberation of the underlying feeling message. It is nonproductive to allow one person to dominate a conversation, and other people also have a need for airtime.
Sidney says, "BUT, I have already done a lot of work." In this instance, the speaker is openly using the word "but,". In other circumstances, the "but" is left out, but is implied. The "but" is a mixed message based on self-delusion. If Sidney had already done a sufficient amount of work on himself, the behavior in question would not contradict his statement, which is based on self-delusion.
Deluding oneself is a common practice, especially when doing deep work that requires confronting bottom-line painful feelings. We all like to think that we have done sufficient work on ourselves. But reality has a hard way of busting up self-delusion. Usually, the self-delusion, "I have already done a lot of work.... or I think I am cured, etc." eventually crashes against the walls of reality, which tells us that there still is a tremendous amount of work that we have yet to do on ourselves and that this very important self work is a lifetime process. Everyone is a work in progress and the “self” correction process is never finished, except maybe by death. Even then, there is probably still a lot of unfinished business left behind.
How do you know that you are going to be engaged in a disordered conversation? Sooner or later you may come to recognize that you are in a conversation that goes nowhere, is disruptive, dysfunctional, perverted and may even be seen as neurotic. It does not matter whether you try to reason with or convince a disordered person of your point of view. Engaging in conversation with a disordered or a disorderly person can be very frustrating and painful. So why bother?
That does not mean that you should avoid all conversations with certain individuals. There are those people with whom you can engage in dialogue, because in certain areas you are on the same wavelength. There may be other areas of such dialogues that seem strange, distasteful and disorderly. It is best to avoid those areas and not engage in something that cannot be moved, changed or made compatible with your wavelength.
There are other individuals and circumstances where it is perfectly legitimate for you to refuse to engage in any kind of neurotic or disorderly conversation. You will never be on the same wavelength. I know that some of my readers are driven and motivated to achieve success. Success is a worthwhile goal when you and your cohorts are on the same wavelength. But, there is no virtue or eventual good outcome that can result from struggling with someone when that individual and you are not on the same wavelength.
As a psychotherapist and healer, it is my job to engage people in conversations and dialogue that lead to a healing, transformative wavelength. That growth process takes place within the boundaries, guidelines and structures of a therapy setting. Any attempt to engage in corrective conversational dialogues with a disordered person, outside of the confines of a structured therapy session is pointless, useless and can lead to distressing outcomes.
Therefore, I postulate the following rule:
Refuse to engage in conversations with disordered, disorderly, dysfunctional (neurotic) individuals. You will not be on the same wavelength.
Footnote: Observe every day situations in your life and in the media for examples of disordered dialogues and the frustrations that ensue.
Now that we have examined several styles and conversation and their impact, I want to center in on the excessive talker, who is driven by anxiety and an intensive need to be heard and listened to.
Everyone of us at one time or another has encountered a compulsive over talker, who doesn't make a mutual move to allow other people to speak and be heard. This conversational dilemma is driven by intense anxiety, over amounts of excessive energy and the inability to use the objective observer in order to curtail excessive speech. Internal limit setting is absent and the individual loses control of his/her ability to engage in mutually productive, give-and-take conversation.
The antidote to this situation is for the listener to be on alert to this conversational problem and be able to set the limits that the sufferer cannot set for the self. Anxiety is the core pain and during a conversation, it infects the listeners and causes problems for the players. The social impact of excessive talking is to arouse the anxiety and even the anger of the listener, who is maneuvered into a position of rejection and distancing towards the excessive talker.
A professional assessment and diagnosis is required for the development of a corrective program for this anxiety driven excessive talker. A multipronged approach seems to be the best strategy. Deep relaxation is required for the lessening of anxiety and the increasing of listening and sharing skills. Deep feeling emotional release over a period of time unloads the buried emotions that are blocked in the viscera. A learning approach strategy can help the individual learn the necessary conversational skills that enhance effectiveness in life situations.
Sometimes there is an underlying motive to someone's need to talk. One such motive is the need to ventilate. In this situation, the listener should be aware that the talker just needs a sounding board; a warm body just to be there to listen; not to respond or understand. Unless of course, the speaker requests a response from the listener; who may have to go back and gather their thoughts as to what the speaker considers important.
The ventilator requires a warm trusting person to be there while the speaker rattles on until he or she gains some insight into the purpose and meaning of the ventilation. In this instance, the ventilation is meant to be a soul-searching, insight seeking method of discovering hidden purpose and meaning. The listener will need to be extremely perceptive in order to spot that the speaker does not require the listener's understanding and interpretation. The speaker is speaking strictly for the sake of speaking and ultimately discovering the meaning of the speech.
The listener will need to accept the underlying rule that he or she is being used as a sounding board and not necessarily as someone who is being engaged in a mutually shared democratic conversation.
There is one pitfall to this type of conversational interaction. The listener could be taxed upon his or her own limits, if the speaker is incapable of gaining insight from the conversational ventilation. At that moment, the speaker could become a bore to the listener and might get turned off and cease to be helpful. One need only to capture the image of the psychoanalyst falling asleep, while the patient rambles on for extended periods of time. The patient emerges from the ventilation on the psychiatrist's couch, only to awaken the doctor expecting to receive pearls of wisdom and acceptance from the authority figure. Sometimes, the psychiatrist merely says, "I'm sorry! But our time is up."
In deep feeling sessions, it is not necessary for the doctor to understand and comprehend everything that the client is cleansing and exorcising from his/her system. The rap up after the session is a good time for the client to inform the good doctor about the essence of the emotional purge. However, successful therapeutic sessions are the result of a good balance of doctor understanding skills and the client's ability to express the deepest of feelings.
Some people are great listeners. In fact, you may be TOO good of a listener. How do you know if you are an excessive/passive listener?
Passive dependency is a sign of excessive listening, without responding or sharing your thoughts and feelings. Passive dependency can become a pervasive style of interpersonal communication. It is on the low end of the interdependence conversational spectrum.
Sometimes passive dependency in conversations, can switch all the way to the opposite extreme and become counter dependency. This conversational style is marked by conversation rebellion, countermanding, disagreeableness, argumentativeness, negativity and rejection of inputs by other people, especially authority figures.
The ideal conversational style would include the integration of passive and counter dependent conversation styles. In that instance, the conversationalist would be operating out of the realm of interdependency, where democratic and mutual interdependent conversations take place. This style operates well between equals, where there is no extreme of passive listening or counter dependent reactivity.
Assignment: Take an inventory of those scenes in your mind where you were either excessively listening/observing or excessively countering and contradicting others; especially authority figures.
Examples: Stephen was a great basketball player. But, his coach did not see or acknowledge his real talent. Consequently, he passively set on the bench and stewed in pain. He was too afraid and blocked to confront the coach, who didn't know how Stephen was feeling. He never expressed his real feelings to the coach. Perhaps, he made the quiet assessment that his self assertiveness would lead to failure to get his needs met. He withdrew from the basketball team with bad feelings.
Carla fought with everyone.... her children, her husbands, her bosses and all of her relatives. She became a real pain in the neck. Everyone avoided her, so as not to get into some kind of verbal fistfight. She had a nasty mouth and believed that she was right and self justified in all of her counter dependency.
Conclusion: It might be that pervasive patterns of the above examples could suggest a possible disorder. Extreme examples of passivity and contradictory, rebellious conversations and behavior are indicative of this.
What is a Delusional Conversation?
A delusional conversation is one where the conversational theme centers around certain types. These include the erotomanic, grandiose, jealous, persecutory (abuse, abandonment, rejection, conspired against, cheated, spied on, followed, poisoned, drugged, maliciously maligned, harassed, or obstructed in the pursuit of long-term goals), somatic or mixed and unspecified themes. As such, I will focus on the conversational dilemma that indicates delusions of abuse.
In the course of a conversation someone may accuse someone else of some sort of abuse. It could be centered around the topics of child, sexual, emotional, physical, mental or other forms of abuse. The accuser may have some kind of history with a specific type of abuse, whether the abuse actually occurred or not. The accuser imagines that he has been a victim of a specific type of abuse. This theme becomes firmly implanted in the consciousness of that individual and is fueled by distrust, fear, terror and anticipation of future abuse. The delusional nature of this type of conversation is not based in reality.
The delusion becomes firmly fixed in the consciousness of the individual and he or she becomes hyper alert and sensitive to the slightest hint that someone is perpetrating abuse. The delusional quality of the conversation is an expression of the fixed rigidity of the delusion. It resists all conversations that try to prove the irrationality of the delusion. The accused will engage in conversations in order to establish and convince others of his or her innocence and non-complicity in the accusation of abuse. This conversation results in a whirlwind of chaotic and turbulent explanations, defenses, rationalizations and justifications.
People who are affected by delusions of abuse may engage in several attempts to obtain gratification and satisfaction through conversational appeals to family members, courts and other government agencies. People who engage in delusions of abuse can be downright mean, resentful, rageful and capable of violence and abuse towards others whom they believe are hurting and abusing them. Thus, a round robin circular battle ensues where victims and victimizers, predators and pray become obscured in the mist of delusional conversations.
A delusion of abuse probably has its physical components in that part of the brain where belief systems are formed. Therefore, conversations with a delusion are conversations with something that simply does not exist, except in the belief system of the delusional person. The delusional person is absolutely convinced that he/she has or is being abused and then finds it necessary to falsely accuse and identify target persons whom they believe are abusive. The fact may be, that the delusional person plays the victim, but actually engages in the abusive act of falsely accusing others. By falsely accusing, the deluded person becomes the person that they fear and hate the most and that person represents the false self.
One must fully recognize the frustration that one feels when trying to have a productive conversation with a split mind/self.
In every conversational opportunity, you are faced with the choice of how and who you wish to conduct a productive and effective conversation. Making this choice is extremely important, for it will determine your ultimate emotional experience during and at the conclusion of the conversation. I recommend that you do not have to feel obligated to conduct a conversation with a person that you deem unsuitable and unfit for a productive conversation. There are exceptions, especially in business and personal interactions. But, you must reserve the right to take control of the situation by responsibly choosing whether you wish to engage this other person as a conversational partner.
In may be reasonable to assume, that after an initial conversation, you will be left with the choice as to whether to have additional conversations. Effective conversations take place between people who are on the same wavelength. Every conversational partner has an agenda, whether announced or hidden. You and your conversational partner will try to impact and influence the behavior of one another. Forceful conversationalists may convince you to accept their point of view and satisfy their hidden agenda and motives. You will know how you will feel after the conversation, how you did in that interaction. If you feel good, your needs were met. If the other person feels good, he or she will feel gratification.
If the conversations are tilted, power oriented or destructive, somebody's going to get hurt. Someone will have to make the decision whether they will engage in such future conversational partner interactions. Remember, you are not obligated outside of your guilt, to engage in any conversation with a partner or person that proves to be toxic to you or the other person. Toxic conversations are a fact and we will reserve that for a future section!
“Nice Person” Guilt
Just about everyone wants to see themselves as good people. Consequently, to refuse to converse with a particular person may make you feel guilty. After all, your ego wants to be experienced as a good person. Here comes the "But!" You don't have to be a sucker. Being a target for someone else's negativity doesn't make you a good person in their eyes, especially if they dump on you the judgment and evaluation that you are truly, "Bad." Your guilt may come from your uneasy feelings of being a "rejector."
There are no perfect decisions for engaging conversational partners. But, you will have to do what is best for you. You can choose to not be a victim to someone else's verbal assaults.
Remember: You have a choice of who will be your conversational partner!