When Not To Meet People Where They Are, When Not To Blend
Posted Oct 11 2010 12:00am
Blending is the basic communication skill, and I’ve written about this skill quite a bit here on the blog. You can read my previous writing on the topic here , here , here and here .
Blending is what we do naturally when we care about people, seek to get to know people, or agree to a mission. By definition, it’s reducing differences and sending signals of similarity.
If you don’t already have a relationship with someone, blending is a choice based on whether you want a relationship or not. You move towards people when you have a reason, when you feel like it, when it seems like the right thing to do. I think it’s a resourceful way to be. Blending, to me, means choosing to continue.
But recently, J.D. Meier over at the wonderful skills blog SourcesOfInsight.com asked me “Are there contexts where you wouldn’t want to blend?” It’s an interesting question, and the answer is found in what you want and don’t want.
Is there a time and place where you don’t want to get closer, get cooperation, get respect? Are there contexts where you want people to know that you’re not on their side? If so, then you don’t want to blend.
You don’t blend with people when you see no reason, don’t feel like it, and what’s being talked about or not talked about, doesn’t sound interesting to you. Just as you move towards people when you have a reason or are triggered emotionally, you move away when your reason no longer makes sense, or the emotion fades.
However, if there is a time when I choose not to blend, it’s when I don’t want something to continue as a result of my attention or involvement. That can happen in small ways, and that can happen in big ways.
Let’s say that a conversation turns down a road better left untraveled, so to speak. Then, not blending is a temporary measure. Or, Let’s say someone becomes pompous, negative, obnoxious, or disruptive, or in some other way behaves in an increasingly undesirable sort of way. You might not mismatch (find the difference), but if you have been blending, you might choose to stop.
Or, depending on circumstance, you might mismatch in an assertive way. If that wasn’t enough, you might do everything you can just to get away. Unless you’re in a position to have your way. And/or make them go away. But as long as you want the person to stay,or you want to stay, then as far as I’m concerned, blending is the way.
Seems to me that you’re either engaging with someone or you’re not. There is always plenty going on, and going on back and forth in a cycle of reciprocity as is the nature of things. And I think if you engage with people at the level they engage with you, you both wind up in a place where you can influence the amount of interaction.
That’s the give and take of relationship, of dialog, of just about everything. Conversations are not salutations. It takes someone to receive for someone to give, then they close the loop and bring it full around. One way interactions are rarely sustainable. They seem unnatural. Two way interactions work in the classroom. They work on the phone. And I don’t know why, but I keep thinking of how this is what works even in leading edge architecture. I’m referring to the two opposite forces of compression and tension, opposing forces that co-exist in many leading edge buildings. It’s the interplay between compression and tension that allows the unique qualities of the structure to stand.
In communication, listening and talking are an exchange of breath, an exchange of ideas, and ultimately, an exchange of interest. And interaction gives you the opportunity to build trust. To me, that means interaction, facilitated by blending, is a persuasive environment.
If you have to deal with someone behaving badly and you want a different result, then you better blend. And if you don’t have to deal with someone, and you don’t want to, then don’t. If it’s not working, stop. And if it’s making things worse, back up and rethink what you’re after. That’s what I think, at any rate. How about you? When do you choose not to blend?