Excuse Yourself from the Dance

Each day, you have countless conversations that don’t lead to the result you want. It’s like you’re performing a conversational dance and you’re locked into the steps—the routine path the conversation takes. There is a way to change the conversation, to get out of the dance and actually communicate with one another. Here’s what you need to know.

Let’s try this. I say “How are you?” And you say…

That’s a conversational dance we have all the time. We know the steps and our roles, and we execute them well. It works for both of us.

But consider what happens when someone who is highly organized gives me some advice. “Kim, why don’t you get some of that stuff off the top of your desk? It would make you more organized, and you’d be able to work more effectively.”

I’ll respond with something like “Yeah, I really need to do that.” And inside, my Knower/Judger will think a firm “Buzz off.” Then I’ll feel bad about myself for not measuring up to the other’s expectations, slink into a corner, and figure out how to rebel against that person.

It’s a more complicated dance, but both participants are just as skilled at keeping it going. We know our roles. The difference between the two conversations is that one serves our relationship and our psyches well, and the other most likely does not.

What dances are you locked into?

How often does your boss, spouse, volunteer board president, or anyone else say something to you that you just don’t agree with? They could be offering you a strategy, or a critique of your work, or a political opinion. Just about anything. Your K/J hears it, measures it against how you see the situation, and finds it less than agreeable.

If this person has some manufactured authority over you (boss, teacher, Mom), then you might feel bad about not performing well. You look down at your feet and slump your shoulders. What you don’t do is actually let the conversation happen and evolve into new knowledge or experience. You also don’t develop the desire to work harder for the boss, study more for the teacher, or put away your socks for Mom.

It’s a Dr. Phil moment. “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

Here’s why your boss, teacher, or Mom doesn’t alter this game: your dance partner gets a lot of emotional satisfaction out of playing the role. Yes, they even enjoy watching you squirm a little. But here’s the surprise. You are satisfied with the dance too! You keep the pattern going because it’s emotionally comfortable.

Excusing yourself from the dance

So how is the pattern ever going to end? With you. You’re responsible for this conversational dance, and you can excuse yourself from it by getting into your Learner/Researcher.

If you change your part, then the other player has no move. They don’t know where to go.

So the next time you’re in a conversation you don’t like, try smiling at your boss/teacher/Mom and saying “You’re right.” This lowers the volume of their K/Js. They’ve won. No need to press the point. You’ve stopped the emotional push and shove. From here the conversation can go to different places. New places that just might change things for both of you.Dancers

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