I Can't Get A
Word In Edgeways!
This phrase sums
up the feeling of some conversations, particularly in groups, and especially
when there is a heated debate going on.
Imagine you're in
a typical heated discussion and your just bursting to chip in your bit.
You sit there on the edge of your seat, words at the ready, waiting
for someone to draw breath for just a tiny fraction of a second. And
then you're off, just like a sprinter from the block at the crack of
the starting pistol.
But - too late -
someone else got there before you!
So, you wait again,
hearing their words, but not listening to them, rather you're judging
when the next gap might come, so you can jump in quicker this time and
get your say, before the topic changes to something else and you've
missed your chance altogether.
Not surprising that
the adrenaline is starting to flow a bit, even to the point where desperation
has you "jumping the gun" and cutting off other people before
they've finished. Perhaps even talking over the top of others in a louder
voice - you're just desperate now to get your point of view out. Then
when it's your turn, it's cut and thrust as you parry potential interruptions,
or throw out "can I finish?" in that disdained tone that lets
your challenger know they are treading on your turf now.
Why do we do
Will the world end
if we don't share our particular point of view? To what lengths will
we actually go, to get our viewpoint across? And if we don't, does it
come down to fisticuffs or storming out in a rage?
To understand the
dynamics of a typical "debate", we need to look at the participants
in relation to each other and the energy that flows between them. When
we see who are the losers and who are coming out on top, it perhaps
gives us a better clue about motives.
In any debate, we
can usually find a "Hogger", one who has to keep on
talking - can't shut them up once they've got the floor. Whether they've
anything to say or not doesn't matter, so long as it's them talking
and everyone else listening. They're in the spotlight and milking it
for all it's worth. You can easily spot their motive here - getting
an energy boost from everyone else in the group, bolstering their own
self worth and often at the expense of others.
Hoggers may come
in various guises - such as the "Driveller" who just
keeps up a flow of words, about anything, often repeating themselves,
other people's conversations, the weather, what they had for breakfast...
They'll even ask questions, but not give you time to answer before they've
moved on and are drivelling about something else.
Or, the Hogger may
also be a "Know It All" - knows everything, has an
opinion on everything - their point of view is the only one that counts
and they will share out their "wisdom" on how you should do
this or that... (whether you actually want it or not).
On the other side
of the conversation or debate, we have the "Listeners",
the ones who are donating to the energy flow by listening, because by
participating, they are giving their attention to the ones holding the
centre of the stage.
from the "Go with Flow" types, who take in what they
want of a conversation, maybe contribute to it in parts, but don't worry
too much if they've shared their truth or heard someone else's, even
several times. The energy may flow outwards from them, but because they
are not "hooked" by the speaker, they are not feeling drawn
by the process. They stay balanced. They may give out, but they are
not depleted by giving.
However, when the
passions get stronger and the debate more exciting or heated, then we
usually get a few "Frustrated Listeners", who have
something they want to share, but "can't get a word in edgeways".
They may start out as "Polite Listeners", who follow the rules
and conventions of dialogue and wait until a pause before joining in,
stopping when they've said their piece and allowing others to speak
in turn. Some Polite Listeners may be hesitant about expressing themselves
and so miss out because they are slower to step in than other participants.
This is often where the build up of tension occurs, because they have
something to express and no opportunity to do so. The energy builds
up inside them to a point of frustration and as a Frustrated Listener,
they step out of their normal behaviour and characteristics and often
assault the conversation in order to break in to it. Typically - with
a louder voice, by getting angry, by cutting people off before they've
finished and even coming to blows if the blood reaches boiling point!
Frustration is not
just limited to listening though, it can be a "Frustrated Talker"
who is on the receiving end of constant interruptions from others, who
finally succumbs to internal pressures to "be heard out".
In a balanced conversation,
each participant knows when it is their turn to talk, when they should
stop or when to let others speak. While they are sharing their truth,
they are also open and aware of someone else with a desire to speak.
The flow passes easily around the group, because they are all listening
and are all "aware". They are not just biding time and formulating
their own response, but actually listening and relating to the person
talking. The point of the conversation is the sharing and communion
of ideas, with patience and respect for each other participant.
In an UN-balanced
conversation, however, some or all of the participants are just looking
for THEIR opportunity to express themselves, to share THEIR truth, affirm
THEIR attitudes, heighten THEIR self worth, with the focus on THEM and
with the energy moving largely in one direction - to THEM. In this conversation
participants ignore the "etiquette" of a balanced dialogue,
because the aim is to push ONE's SELF forward, scoring points for their
ego as they go.
All of this happens
at a sub-conscious level of course - few of us deliberately manipulate
a dialogue (apart from politicians maybe!).
We learned how to
do this as a child, even in the cradle - aware of the energy flow, of
who is dominant and who backs down. We learned how to rise above others
and receive recognition for our wit, our humour, our intelligence. Either
that, or we learned to sit quietly in a corner, listening to the interplay,
possibly even wanting to join in, but holding ourselves back through
fear - of ridicule, or of domination by others.
The energy that
builds up by feeling pushed down by others, can have a very explosive
outpouring when it finally gets an opening - it's always the quiet ones
that you have to watch out for!!!
to note, that when people behave in the same way while driving a car
(ie frustration at other drivers who ignore the rules of the road or
are impolite in their driving manners) we call it Road Rage - perhaps
we should coin a new phrase for conversations that get out of hand -
The answer to
First, don't buy
into the game play. At any time you have an opportunity to leave a conversation
that is un-balanced.
If you are being
"cut off" repeatedly, you can let the other person know why
you are discontinuing the conversation. That you expect the same level
of respect from them by listening to you, as they do when they are speaking.
Although, you might check first whether you have been "hogging"
in case they couldn't get a word in edgeways!
If you are faced
with a Hogger - rather than adopt one of the un-balanced techniques
born out of frustration, a simple way of slicing into a monologue is
- "Excuse me for interrupting, but...". Don't use it as an
opportunity to take over the conversation, but let them know how you
are feeling about the conversation flow. If you can't agree on an equitable
framework for a conversation - find someone else to talk to.
All of this applies
to most general conversations, but if you look closely at your most
significant relationships and how conversations and debates usually
occur between you, it will also give you a good idea about how you relate
There may be one
who talks more and one who listens more and still a feeling of balance
between you - but is there a respectful status quo between you when
you discuss something or do you have to "fight" to be heard?
Are you shouted down or ridiculed or do you interrupt and cut them off
before they've had chance to speak?
Do you come away
from a conversation with feelings of frustration or of superiority?
Both are clear signs that someone is gaining from the interchange and
Or do you feel calmness,
through a clear and balanced expression of each other's view.
Hargreaves 5th March 2005)
I Can't Get A Word In Edgeways - Hark.net.au