Saturday, March 29, 2008

O'Keeffe: Tree Trunks No. II, Part 2

How to deal with being in a relationship (friend, lover, or co-worker) with someone who slips into overt narcissism (Tree Trunks No. II, Part 1), and thus consistently forgets you and she are on the same team?

Initial strategy: I would remind myself of the following
  1. every situation is unique.
  2. man's fallen nature is part of God's perfect plan.
  3. I am quite fallen. I understand how my partner feels. I've been there.

I would also go to a trusted advisor for third party counseling and opinion. It would be valuable to speak to someone who could see the forest.

I suspect this situation calls for leadership inside the relationship. To lead, I need to know where I am going. People will follow someone who knows where they are going. I am going towards high, inspirational, and eternal values; and away from lowness, baseness, and temporary desires. I might need to declare myself inside the relationship, again and again, as often as needed: I am your partner, not your foe. Jesus never gives up on me. I can be inspired and led by His example.

Declaring oneself again and again reminds of a communications course which asserts that each complete conversation breaks down into component parts:

  • relationship
  • possibility
  • opportunity
  • action

A conversation might naturally and succinctly complete itself, via coming to a legitimate point of yes or no (and either is completely legitimate), and that is a best outcome. More often, and less succinctly, a conversation might break down before a point of legitimate yes or no is reached. When this happens, when you feel something odd in the conversational dynamic, then you need to go back to the beginning and re-institute relationship inside the conversation. A conversation might often require going back, again and again, to the beginning step. Relationship might need to be re-implemented several times.

Similarly, inside a friendly or romantic or work relationship, one might need to declare and re-declare - again and again - who one is inside the relationship: a partner, not a foe. The other person in the relationship might consistently forget that salient circumstance.

Back to the component parts of a conversation - This might be a conversation:

action(yes or no)

Or, this might be a conversation:





action(legitimate yes or no).

Succeeding inside a relationship with an excessive narcissist reminds of the necessities of that second conversation: re-instituting relationship again and again. I might need to lead my co-worker and myself - again and again - in reminding ourselves we are a team. This is what Jesus does with me: He leads me - again and again - to remember He and I are a team. I am the person who always forgets.

Caveat: if I am in a romantic relationship, I am also leading my love to a therapist's office!

A "conversation" is a fluid concept. The "relationship" component might amount to no more than a look, a smile, or a handshake. The "possibility" component might amount to one word: "Chili's?" "Opportunity" might be pre-understood, and require no verbalization or body language. "Action" might amount to taking an initial stride towards Chili's. Voila! A complete conversation which ends in a legitimate yes or no.

But it's all about relationship. Even though "relationship" appears to be only 25% of the formula, it is actually more like 90% of having a complete and productive conversation(even when it is handled in a glance or a handshake). You could rework Yogi Berra: 90% of this conversation is half relationship. Good conversationalists know how to relate - whether quickly and efficiently, or sometimes not .. so .. quickly -- they are nevertheless experts at creating relationship.

I just read a business book by a Hollywood executive. She focused on "making an effective pitch" of an idea. She said the biggest, most consistent mistake is to pitch the idea before a relationship has been established. Why would you want to work with someone you did not know and like? Is it really worth it? No! Life is too short. It's even a type of betrayal of your principles. Establish the relationship.

She never pitched an idea in an initial meeting. She compared pitching an idea to a first kiss: the moment has to be just right. You don't rush in. You gradually build towards it. You gradually build the suspense, until the moment is just right.

Postscript postscript:

quoting from memory:

"After all the no's comes the yes; and upon that yes depend the hopes of the world."

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