Complexity in conversations

Anne Marie McEwan reflects on the complexity of relationships in her post, Complexify Yourself:

I think that complexity takes on another dimension when people interact. We are not pre-determined entities or objects – we ourselves are complex. We change and develop. How we feel and act on a particular day emerges from many things that can affect us.

We’re born with capabilities and personalities but these aren’t fixed. We interact with our environments and are changed by them. We learn and adapt. I can only speak for myself but I behave differently according to who I am with, how well I know someone and what the context is — formal, informal, familiar, new and perhaps unsettling?

Consider if you and I were working together. I do or say something and this might influence what you do or say. Your response to me similarly has the potential to influence what I do or say. And so it continues. What emerges from our interactions is fraught with all sorts of tensions and possibilities. High divorce rates in many countries suggest how difficult it is for two people to continue to see eye-to-eye.

Yep. I think we easily lose sight of the complexity in even the simplest conversation. When working on difficult conversations, I’ll often play out 10, 20 or more different ways to give a one line response to a provocation. Quite small things have significant impact on how people react to what is said. (See this post for more on this.)

I think we easily lose sight of the richness within even the most mundane-seeming conversation. I have a hunch that as a result we don’t realise how much influence we have, moment-to-moment in our relationships.

Hat tip: Harold Jarche

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