I asked someone about his experience, favorites, thoughts about a trip he and his wife had taken. She was nearby. As he expressed himself, she reframed and rearranged them. Instead of his response, I got an edited version.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I wanted a combined answer. But watching to the dynamics reminded me to listen well and respond well beyond the specific situation. If I interrupt, I invade the flow. If I redirect, I miss something. If I give my own experience, I steal their time. But I can also pause in order to clarify, ask for more details, and reflect back to them to affirm and engage. Similar dynamics can result from different motivations.
More than my patterns, I need to be aware of my motivations. Is my intent to interject or to get a certain response, or do I want to listen, learn, and reflect? Is my focus more on content or on relationship?
Seeing some dissonance in the couple’s response was helpful. It reminded me to be sensitive as I engage and respond. It reminded me that sometimes it is someone else’s interaction that becomes more important than my own. Sometimes it is my question that gets something started, but I can then back off for another process to continue.
We don’t need to call out every dissonance or discrepancy. We can be sensitive to the possibilities of conversations and people’s processing. We can be realistic, available, and wise as we grow and expand our perspective through other people’s experiences.