Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Demand-Withdraw Pattern

Over this last weekend my sister and I watched a whole season of a random tv show we found on the internet. You may be surprised to hear that, as uninteresting as that sounds, we actually had a blast. One of our favorite things to do together is watch things and make fun of them. we often spend the entire time we watch a movie tearing it apart in every area from the cast to the story to the script and then leave the theatre having a serious conversation about how much it impacted us. People who don’t know us well are often confused by this- which we don’t blame them for. But we can’t help mocking things. It’s just a part of how our relationship/family operates. I’m sure I could center an entire communicational study on that dynamic alone- and I suspect I’ll devote an entire blog to it before long- but that isn’t the purpose of this one.

The point is that we were making fun, as usual, of a certain episode about a journalist who was writing a column on an author of multiple “how to pick up women” sorts of books. Needless to say the interviews were already hilarious without our supplementary commentary, but I began to notice as we were jeering at the author’s method of insulting women to make them want you I had heard this principle before. Our text book called it the “demand-withdraw pattern” which we saw demonstrated in “The Tao of Steven.” I found it interesting to look at the differences in these two pop culture applications of it. In the movie we watched in class Steven says to appear disinterested, be excellent in the woman’s presence, and then retreat. This fictional writer demonstrated his technique by telling a girl walking by with a pastry, “You know, that is so awesome that you’re not at all concerned about what that doughnut’s gonna do to your hips,” and then ignoring her until she’d practically thrown herself in his arms. Obviously both of these examples are extremely exaggerated and unrealistic, but I did find it funny that the common element was the “retreat” or “withdraw” which causes greater demand.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Picture Worth at Least 2 Paragraphs...

I stumbled across this picture on the internet on accident and I really had to think about it. I was reminded of our recent class discussions about non-verbal communication. So much is said and understood by our visual perceptions. Things like paralanguage which can be distinguished by inflection are largely reinforced by facial expressions and posture. The same thing may be said by two people but if one of them rolls their eyes it takes on a whole different meaning.

I suppose, in this sense, this picture doesn’t really sum up non-verbal communication quite right, as much more is taken in by the eyes than spoken by them. Perhaps it would be more appropriate for the eyes to be replaced by ears than lips. But if the Bible was correct in saying (and I would like to believe it always is) that our eyes are the windows to our souls, it follows that they can communicate a great deal about the very core of our being. I could go on, but if a picture is really worth a thousand words I don’t have the energy to arrange them all just now, so here is the picture available for your own reflections.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Honesty is a curious thing. If lying by omission is still a lie then nearly every conversation could be considered dishonest. It is impossible to relate every single individual detail of every day to anyone in order to avoid lying by excluding truths, which is why I believe that in most cases when someone says, “I just want you to be honest with me,” what they really want is for you to be direct.

Lately I’ve found and unexpected virtue in directness. Being an extremely non-confrontational person, I avoid conflict at almost any and all costs. I hate being the one to call people out on things and it has gotten me in to trouble more than once. Because I value maintaining the relationship above being assertive about a problem, I often end up making all sorts of excuses for other people’s behavior in order not to sound condescending or angry. The problem is that no relationship can realistically be maintained without addressing conflicts or saying what we think at some point. Getting too caught up in sugar-coating your opinions or the facts about a situation forces you to do a lot of back-peddling when you finally decide to be direct. I’ve been increasingly reassured that as I approach things directly it never seems to produce the disastrous effects I imagined. Thus far it hasn’t resulted in the destruction of friendships but rather the swiftest resolves I’ve ever experienced. It is hard to explain how difficult it is for me to be direct or why, but I’m beginning to see it as one of the most valuable interpersonal skills I’ve ever intentionally developed. Because speaking the truth absolutely is an acquired skill. Well, maybe not for some people. But speaking the truth in love, I am certain is not a mechanism that anyone was born skilled with. Employing the cold hardness of truth and the warm attentiveness of love seems so difficult and conflicting. So are these two factors mutually exclusive? I would say not. But there is great difficulty balancing them all the same. There are those who find no trouble telling the truth about their thoughts, but they are far from doing so with love. I find, as may be guessed from how I’ve described myself above, that my difficulty lies in the opposite that I know only how to apply love and not truth. The reality is that we cannot depend upon sweet and encouraging words to make corrections. I find my few reproaches I have the nerve to give are shockingly ineffective because I vaguely refer to the problem at hand then lather it all up with gentile encouragements and compliments and the purpose is never served. We must train our lips to be just and kind.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Minor Conflicts

So much a bout a conversation can be destroyed by differences in how we expect people to communicate. I have this friend that I get along extremely well with, but we are still getting to know each other. The other day we had our first really extended conversation and I realized afterwards that I must have done nearly 80% of the talking. As I considered why, it occurred to me that almost every thing he had said to me was a question. It made me start to think and I believe that perhaps the way he is used to getting to know someone is by asking each other questions- which would make sense. Except that I am used to the less direct approach which is a sort of system of turn-taking-self-disclosure. As one person tells about themselves, the other, in response, tells about their related experiences. I don’t think that either method is necessarily superior. They are both different and effective when both parties are using the same one, but in this case it probably appeared as if I was only interested in hearing the sound of my own voice. He continued to ask me questions- more than likely expecting me to ask him questions back- but instead I kept answering them expecting him to respond with his own opinion on the question. This hasn’t resulted in any kind of fight or anything like that(at least not yet) but it does make me wonder if I just sounded like I was dominating the conversation because I didn’t care to hear his thoughts. It’s crazy to think that even such a small conflict in conversational styles as that can cause a communicational problem.