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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 all this?
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.
Listeners vary 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!!!
It's interesting 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 - Word Rage?
The answer to all this?
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 generally.
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 someone losing.
Or do you feel calmness, through a clear and balanced expression of each other's view.