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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Respectful Advice

I realize that my current and historical ways of delivering or brainstorming information needs updating to become more effective and to be received in the ways that I intend. Essentially, I need to ask more questions while I'm communicating or teaching, generating or sharing ideas. Being both a rebellious and tolerant person who has had to resist over-control by others, let me share with you some of these questions I have learned to ask myself. They are often about how I might determine if or how much I should trust or suspect another person's motives who is offering me suggestions.

  • Do my advisors just seem to have their own priorities, preferences and agenda to push on me that I might not agree with?
  • How often are they making attempts to find out and take my special criterias, needs and requirements into consideration above their own?
  • How do they receive it if I fill them in on the fly as I notice possible missing elements or points?
If I do suspect or want to question their agenda, most of the time I realize that is very different than suspecting or questioning their personal integrity or ethics or that I am handing out a personal attack. To do this, I might offer a possible sample motive that we'll agree about. If I have an ongoing relationship with them that could benefit from establishing further agreements about being on the same page, I might just ask them directly about what their motives or ground rules or assumptions are. Some people are taken aback by such daring. Doing this before I react or flee, this approach answers my urge to defend myself and avoids making the situation negative when it might be uncomfortable for both of us.

Please feel that it's perfectly OK for you to ask me about it if you suspect I have a distasteful agenda to push onto you. In my better moments, I have gleefully practiced suspending my own personally defensive reactions to others who question my motives. In my past I have been so often misunderstood that I do not mind doing the work to establish further trust and understanding. Instead I happily consider it to be an investment in our relationship - or at least practice of a skill that can be used with people are are increasingly different from myself, (thus having complimentary skills.)

Usually, I don't have much specific personal interest of gaining or losing something for myself concerning the specific issue, although it may seem like I'm blowing up the issue beyond all proportion because nobody else would bother to articulate it unless they did passionately care. This is a point I ask myself about others to find out if they have something to gain by convincing me or changing my behavior toward them. I regard working such things out between people as a long term investment in bonding and trust that I'm more than willing to make with you... If the issue is a pattern of mine, there will be people like you in my future.

My motives and priorities are often intended to help people use forethought & to think for themselves. I know that I also assign a high priority to justice and fair treatment, and that I feel compassion and understanding are important. My obvious talent (or obcession) to make fine distinctions in order to note and reveal differences doesn't necessarily imply that I'm assigning a value or judging another person's actions to be wanting because they don't match my own. I tend to prefer to contrast in order to reveal missing differences and to not be so concerned about mis-matches. A basic strategy of others that I know is quite different from mine is to seek for matches that reveal and look for similarities.

Innately, my being with others brings out ways in which I feel similar to them to start with, so I find it more useful to seek for differences to establish my own autonomy and stop the need to second-guess what they think of me. Usually it doesn't make much difference to me whether MY choice or points are the ones chosen. This was a feature so often that I would get lost in decision-making with too many options that are equally attractive or are canceling out each other. In my past I often needed to physically get away from others so I could determine my own thoughts on matters, because I was "too" compassionate.

Offering possible alternatives or giving out some more choices isn't perfect as a strategy, but people who get to know me usually understand my motives of why I'm saying such things. Now that I use contrasting to reveal differences, it works so well for me - so much that now I have become the one who seems imposing or threatening!

Also, I have come to appreciate how others in my subculture wouldn't as a rule bother to spell out what is so personal in so much detail, if they did not personally care about it. So that's why my motives of why be talking about assumptions is often misunderstood. Others have often reacted like I'm blowing up the issue beyond all proportion or prematurely bringing up issues that seem petty or don't have enough reason to change now. I bring things up like this because I have come to appreciate how long it takes to change a significant character feature or thinking strategy.

Can you and I find a way around this issue of advice/respect between us, even if we are both willing? I'm willing and, I think, able to change myself to accommodate communication in this case, but I might not be able to deliver in the limited time we have together. As a rule of thumb, I want to start working on changing it long before it becomes a problem. You may not feel it's worth it. So, let me know and I'll be happy to just avoid or mitigate the issue in the future as well as I can. But it's not in my nature to ignore such a thing without having agreed to do so. I really hate it when the tacit agreement seems to be "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than agreement."

Sometimes I do have something to gain for which I am negotiating. Especially when others are going to be giving up something for me to be involved, I want to offer a benefit to them and find out if it's worth it to them to get or have what I'm offering. It is OK with me that they would that your needs be put first - it's not "selfish" because we spell out and agree with the priority applied. There are usually other options that can accommodate everyone's needs by compensating for arrival time rather than simultaneous fulfillment. I don't mind waiting my turn so I can get exactly what I want at some point. Who gets whose way and how long they must wait is a basic relationship ground rule to establish, according to me.

I'd love your suggestions and examples about how I could word what I mean to say in a way that is easier for you to recieve. I do know that I obviously need to work on finding more tactful ways to deliver information (to not just you) about ways to do stuff easier and how to remind in a way that would help people remember points that I can tell are missing.

In the meantime, please try to take the benefit of what I say without being defensive about how I'm saying it. Please don't become more touchy about this as I get more skillful and tactful and start to improve too gradually after you've gotten to the end of your rope, OK?

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