Sunday, May 8, 2011

Male-Female Communication: From Conversation to Conflict in 60 seconds

I read a great article in the April 2011 Psychology Today titled, "Zoom". http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/201008/zoom-the-art-multi-level-headed-thinking  I suggested my husband read it too, which he did and also liked it. I think it is particularly a male-female pattern although I've seen and heard it at business meetings, Board meetings, and friendly everyday conversation.

Today my husband and I did exactly what the article told readers was a bad pattern: starting with one topic of conversation, and ending up with 12, none of which was resolved while we sat, parked in the car at the grocery store on Mother's Day.

• Should we go to Bremerton this afternoon?
• Are you feeling OK to drive?
• Have we decided about getting a new loveseat?
• Are you changing your mind?
• Do we have very different decision-making processes?
• Do we have to have all the information now or can we do this step-by-step?
• Is there enough time to make the trip?
• Are you sure what you want? Are we in agreement?
• We've long ago left the initial topic.
• We can't make a decision about the initial topic until we have more information and we can't have more information until we go to Bremerton.
• Look at us. We're doing exactly what the article in Psychology Today was talking about. Let's go to Bremerton anyway. OK.

Fortunately we recovered quickly from this time-consuming run-around discussion, but it was still a time-waster and mutual morale busterer.

The author of the article, Jeremy Sherman Ph.D. suggests "going meta", which is staying a level above the argument. This is much easier to do as an external person (e.g. with your kids) than it is when you're part of the problem. He has two other suggestions which I didn't find very helpful, but you might. Check the link. I think the best thing is to notice the pattern and return to the initial topic, without resolving the intervening ones. That's what we did — eventually!

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