I was sitting with an old friend the other day, and she described something her friend observed in his conversation with her the day before. He said, “You ever notice that you’re always trying to get one up on me in our conversations?” “What do you mean” she replied. “I say something about some topic, doesn’t matter and you immediately disagree, or add something that shows you know more,” said her friend.
To my friend’s credit she didn’t follow the pattern her friend was describing at that moment, and actually sat with his observation for a while. “He’s right,” she told me, “and I told him so.”
I do it
I recognize this in myself as well as many people around me. It’s as if people use their conversations to compete for dominance or freedom. I can’t say whether everyone does this, but it’s probably the case that almost everyone does this with at least one person in their lives. Maybe it’s with one of your parents or your older brother, or woe is you, your spouse.
This hidden rivalry is so normal for some people that they are completely oblivious to it – like the fish unaware of the water it swims in. It’s only when they’re in the presence of someone who is not playing the rivalry game, who is just allowing them to be however they are and however they aren’t that they notice something. A feeling of acceptance. No judgment. They then experience a taste of real communication and they have no idea what’s going on, except that they like being with this person.
But I stop
I still find myself playing the rivalry game, and I’m able to recognize and stop. Alright, at least half the time. (smile) I also have a good friend that I almost never play the hidden rivalry game with. That’s my good friend Scott. Whenever I’m with Scott he generates such a space of trust and calm acceptance that I don’t get triggered to play that game. He really causes me to feel that he’s listening and that whatever I say is OK. What a gift he is.
Having someone like Scott in your life is a great way to practice just being with people the way they are and the way they are not, and have it be OK. Every conversation you have with such a person can remind you of what real communication looks like, and you can better put this into practice in the other conversations in your life.
You can too. Just keep trying
Don’t be disappointed if you lapse back into the rivalry game in your conversations though. It will happen. There are some wounds you have with certain people that may take a mediator to get you to a place where you can communicate authentically.
Don’t give up. The world needs people to actively practice listening to each other, and we don’t. Just look at people on different sides of an issue on TV. Everybody’s talking, nobody’s listening. What’s even scarier is that no one seems to notice.
All you have to do is notice, and then you can choose to stop. You’ll notice you won’t die. 😉