My friend Molly recently told me a story that I found enlightening and very amusing.
She is standing outside her workplace–a veterinarian’s office–on break one day when a homeless gentleman spots her and walks her way. As he approaches, Molly goes through all the stock phrases most of us prepare in a situation like this (“Sorry, don’t have any change.” “This is my last cigarette.” “I left my wallet inside. Can’t help you today.”). He walks up and says, “Is there a veterinarian around here?” Molly (wearing her vet scrubs) smiles and nods to the building she is leaning against, “There’s one right here.” The man replies, while flexing and then tapping his biceps, “Good cuz these doggies are hurting!” Then he walks off.
Upon hearing this story, I asked myself: How often do we actually have the conversation we plan to have? How often do we end up having the conversation we expect to have with a waiter, a shop clerk, a cop? More importantly how often do we say to ourselves, “When I tell him/her about this, (s)he is going to be pissed off, complain that it isn’t fair, and then be grumpy for the rest of the evening. Why do they always act this way?!?” Then what happens? Exactly what you thought would happen!
Think about it. Do you “know” how your partner, boss, child, parent, colleague, sibling, teammate is going to act? Do you already “know” what they are going to say?
This issue is usually exacerbated by the passage of time: both the length of time between seeing someone and, conversely, the more time you spend with them.
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised when someone reacted differently (i.e. positively) than you predicted? Why not let that be your constant state of being? What happens when we think we know the course which a conversation runs is that we do a great disservice to whomever we are talking to: we treat them as if they were a character from history rather than the present person standing before us. And, like any character from history, they are part of a story… this time it is a story that we write and control; a story that doesn’t allow for someone to be in the present.
The next time you predict what someone will say, have a premonition over how they will react, or otherwise employ your clairvoyance, take a second to ask yourself why you are afraid to face someone as they really are… the person standing before your right now, the person that is constantly evolving, changing, and growing into their present self. You will probably enjoy that conversation a whole lot more.
And feel free to share your experiences in the comments!