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Opposites Do More Than Attract

Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.

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Opposites Do More Than Attract
(click for podcast)

They Can Make Us Crazy
They say “opposites attract.”  Apparently opposites also annoy, frustrate, and confuse.  Since that part may not be particularly useful or enjoyable, let’s look at this a little differently.  First of all, getting annoyed is only one of an infinite number of ways we can react.  This is where choice and freedom live; that fleeting moment where we either mindlessly react according to old scripts and habits, or consciously interrupt the knee-jerk, and drive our own lives.  Freedom is more about opening doors, than closing them, and questions are very much like opening doors, so questions are where we find our path.


Let’s re-examine that moment of interaction where we got annoyed, frustrated or confused.  Somebody does or says something that hits us so “off” that we are “struck” by it.  We’re on that precipice of how we’re going to deal with it.  This is the moment we either react or catch ourselves.  This is a moment of magic.  What if this person’s way of being in the world, that is so different from ours, offered us tools, resources or perspectives that would serve and benefit us?  What if they’re able to do things that we aren’t able to do (yet)?  What if they have ideas we’ve never thought of?  What if, instead of getting them to see things our way, we took the opportunity to learn from them?


Okay, these are rhetorical questions.  They are, however the kind of questions we need to learn to ask, if we’re to grow and evolve.  Being with people who process the world the same way we do is pretty uncommon.  This is where the conflicts seem to arise.  This is different than sharing values.  We can “feel the same way about things,” then witness a car crash, and have different accounts of what happened.  Then we typically figure the other person is wrong or crazy, and start trying to “make them see it our way.”  There’s the rub.  When our processing styles collide is exactly when we need to stay in a questioning state, rather than a reactive one.


By holding on to that questioning state, we’re metaphorically floating in the “realm of possibilities.”  Until we’ve collapsed them down to one possibility, we have options.  The willingness to not have to have answers takes a lot of juice out of having to be “right” as well.  They’re very closely related.  Once we jettison the illusion that being “right” somehow protects us and keeps us safe and whole, we’re freed from the constraints and habits that illusion puts on us.  Dr. Timothy Leary once said that his favorite three words were, “I don’t know,” because every time he said them, he ended up learning something. 


In reality, the assertion of being “right” only serves a further illusion of safety.  It separates and detaches us, placing us on a pretend throne.  (“You can’t hurt me because I’m up here, away from you.  I’m right.  You’re not.  You’re down there, away from me.”)  This probably made more sense when we were three years old.


Let’s get back to that original concept around opposites attracting (before “being right” enters and causes conflict.)  There are plenty of reasons for this, and borrowing from the physical world around us we have examples such as magnetism and bio-diversity.  Shuffling diverse genetics is a wonderful engine for driving growth and evolution.  Homogeneous input is like genetic inbreeding, cumulative errors without checks and balances are the negative results.   Many corollaries hold true when taking this concept from genetics to social development. [For those of you familiar with Integral Theory, this is concurrent development in Internal-Singular (biological) and Internal-Plural (cultural) Quadrants.]  Generally, there are areas of preferred uniformity, (breathing the same stuff to live for example) and then there are exciting divergent experiments that propel evolution (democracy, non-violent protests, Cro-Magnon versus Neanderthal, etc.)


So here we are with Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, Mutt & Jeff, Jack Spratt and his wife.  We have plenty of examples of being drawn to our opposites, but what factors are we looking at when we decide that they are opposites, and why is it a problem?  And if it’s a problem, what’s the solution?

The Solution is a Bigger Picture
Even when everything else seems in agreement, that pesky processing style shows up with enormous differences: head, heart, intuition, fast, slow, internal, external, assertive, compliant, withdrawing, visual, kinesthetic, and so on.  Each person is experiencing such a different world.  This is where our greatest opportunities live.  Rather than narcissistically assuming our way is The Way, we can look at our opposites as having an important perspective that we’re missing.  We can look at them as having access to tools we’ve missed.  We can see them as having solved problems we’ve never solved.  In short, we can offer one another vast insights, resources, tools, and strategies.  First we let go of the delusion that our way is The Way, and then we get to grow and learn.  How cool is that?!


The more impatient you get with someone, the more likely they can teach you about patience.  The more activity-oriented someone is, the more likely they can teach you to take action, and the more you can teach them about Being.  When someone is so detail-oriented, they make you want to scream, the more they can teach you about crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, and the more you can teach them to have fun and relax.  The more someone seems too concerned with connection, the more they can teach you about your own detachment, and the more you can teach them about objectivity.  The pushier someone is, the more they can teach you about your own lack of assertiveness, and the more you can teach them about letting people be who they are without judgment.


Turning the conflict into curiosity and an opportunity to learn and grow is wildly successful in both business and personal relationships.  Everybody wins.  Rather than backing off to compromise (where both sides feel diminished; having to give something up) we discover larger, more inclusive Truths that nourish and support us.  Enlightened Self Interest; seeking growth and evolution for yourself, bears extremely sweet fruit, including by the way, one of the most powerful tools of movement on Earth: compassion

Quick Communication Tip

Active Listening Again?
Yup, our old friend Active Listening.  A very simple and strategic approach to communication is “understanding what the other person is trying to convey.”  Obvious, right?  Remember that only a portion of what they’re trying to convey is coming out in words, or the words they really mean, and the rest of the information is coming at you in myriad non-verbal forms.  If you’re thinking about what you’re going to say, or trying to translate their words into your “way of seeing things,” you are missing huge amounts of information.  Everything you’re missing could be useful to you in this negotiation.  And yes, virtually every conversation (including the ones in your head) are filled with negotiations.

Rather than wait for the other person to stop talking so you can make your point, play with seeing how observant you can be and how much information you can take in while they’re talking.  Are they talking fast or slow (big picture/details focus?) Are they using visual or auditory metaphors?  Are they connecting to people, things or values?  What combination?

All of these will tell you how to communicate with this person in a way that they will hear you, understand you, and be open to what you have to say with less defensiveness or argument.  Plus, they’ll be so blown away at your level of attention, they’ll want to reciprocate by really listening to you.

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series

KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (Podcast Snippets)
Communication Excellence (full interview)

Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain

Kind Ambition -
2nd Edition now available

Got Blog? c
ome visit the Blog.

Character Driven - Ever want to create characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were characters?



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