Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Circular Conversation


Does this sound familiar to anyone?

A- I'm going now. Are you coming?
B- No, I don't feel like it. I've got a lot of things to do
A- Ok, no problem. Bye
B- (pausing for thought) Well, I can come if you want
A- No, that's fine
B- So you don't want me to come? I'll stay then
A- Come if you want, it'll be nice.
B- Well, if you really want me to, I will
A- It's up to you. I know you've got things to do
B- Yes, I have. I think I'll stay if you don't mind
A- I understand. I'll be ok on my own
B- Are you sure?
A- Yes, it's ok
B- Maybe I should come. You might get bored on your own.
A- (sternly) I think I can make that decision for myself. I'll be fine.
B- Hmm, you sound a bit angry that I'm not coming.
A- (exasperated) No, that's not it
B- Final decision. I'm coming!
A- Ok great, let's go
B- Ok 
B- (moment of thought) Can I just finish what I was doing?
A- How long will you be?
B- I don't know, it depends how long it takes
A- Well, I'd like to get going really
B- Ok, I'd better stay then
A- (tersely) Bye then
B- (feeling guilty) Go on then, I'll come. I'll bring my work with me
A- On second thoughts, STAY!
(both feel disgruntled)

Of course the shorter version, which saves breath, time and feelings, is:

A- I'm going now. Are you coming?
B- No, I don't feel like it. I've got a lot of things to do
A- Ok, no problem. Bye

You could perhaps generalise and say that the longer conversation is the British version and the shorter one the American version. I think excessive politeness and assumptions about another's feelings tend to waste time and cause unnecessary aggravation. Directness, once it is established, is the path to truth and action.

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