Without Becoming

Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

Today I had a talk with someone. For the past many months, there has been a fair bit of conflict and tension in our relationship. For a while now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to address some of this to bring us to a better state.

Prior to today’s meeting, I was told that my feedback to them was confusing. The feedback I gave them provided some insight into my perceptions. However, it lacked anchoring to specific data points (so it was unclear what triggered my perceptions) and it didn’t provide much guidance towards how we could best move forward.

I spent a couple weeks trying to identify concrete examples of things that would lead me to think certain thoughts and feel certain emotions. I managed to identify at least 5 things before our talk took place today.

I presented these observations in the form of the experience cube because it is a tool that both of us is familiar with, and because I thought it would be a good frame work to connect the specific data points with my perceptions with guidance for moving forward. (The experience cube is a framework used to provide clarity when sharing your experience. The components of the experience cube include observations (the specific data points), thoughts (my perceptions about those data points), feelings (my emotions following those thoughts), and wants (how I would like things to change). This concept comes from Gervase Bushe’s Clear Leadership.)

On the bright side of things, it sounds like they got better insights into the specific behaviours I was reacting to and some changes I thought that would improve things.

But on the flip side of things, so far (I say so far because we’re continuing the conversation again later once they’ve processed their thoughts) it sounds like they’re attributing the conflict and tension to the fact that I these thoughts. And that the solution to these problems would be for me to stop having these perceptions.

I mean, yes, it is true that my thoughts/perceptions are leading to the conflict and tension between us. However, I don’t think that means that the next action to move forward would be to stop having these perceptions.

I think having perceptions is a core piece of the human condition. I think they are inevitable, and having them is largely out of our control.

So of course I decided to try to explain that. And I also tried to point out that the conflict and tension on their side was generated from their own perceptions, even though they didn’t seem to believe that they have many of these perceptions.

Why did I decide to try to explain that?

I didn’t realize it until writing this blog post, but I automatically jumped into explaining because I have this idea about perceptions and how they’re related to the issue we were discussing, and they didn’t have the same idea. I saw this as a problem. Problems make me feel uncomfortable, so immediately I tried to explain to remedy the problem in order to alleviate my discomfort.

Another perception.

I also realize now that focusing on the perceptions themselves sort of side-tracked our conversation. The perceptions are important to discuss because they provide clues into the needs that we have that aren’t being met.

Reflecting more on it now, I suspect that I have an unmet need to feel respected and free; I suspect that they have an unmet need to feel liked, wanted, and belonging. I think I may suggest in our next conversation that we look at these to see if these are unmet needs, and if so, what actions we can take to help each other fill those needs.

Well, it sounds like I have more direction than when I started this blog post.

Fortunately, I’m going to be running some of these thoughts by a coach soon. I’m curious if I’m tracking towards a better place, or if I’m still missing some major of my blind spots in this conversation.

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