The Hard Conversations

Uncomfortable situations can be awkward for all involved but they are especially awkward for the socially inexperienced. What an expert might consider basic knowledge might be something that a newbie has not yet learned. I like to break conversation types down into several “difficulty” categories. This is by no means scientific, set in stone, realistic, or even correct but it helps me gear up for a conversation when I know the topic beforehand.

Conversation Difficulty scale from Easy (1) to Really Hard (5):

  1. The Easy Conversation: This type of conversation is simple. Think of talking about something you love, a passion that you embrace with every fiber of your being. The words just flow and there is no end in sight.
  2. The Standard Conversation: You have these every day. Sometimes you trip up but it’s never that critical even if the content is important.
  3. The Slightly Hard Conversation: This usually happens every once in a while. Apologizing to someone, delivering some bad (but not too tragic) news, or even just talking to someone you’re attracted too. OK that last one is personal but many people have that problem right? This is not the type of conversation you want to have or mess up and some people will go to great lengths to avoid them.
  4. The Hard Conversation: Unlike the “Slightly Hard” conversations, you cannot avoid these. Feeling can and sometimes will get hurt and they are not easy to navigate. Examples include: Breaking up with a significant other, dealing with inconsiderate people, and particularly heated arguments.
  5. The Really Hard Conversations: Delivering tragic news and dealing with incredibly difficult situations are always the hardest conversations to have.

The examples and descriptions provided are from my experience and my current level of conversational skill. At the beginning of the year, I would have classified anything above the standard conversation and the hidden number 6) The Impossible Conversations. In the past few weeks I have started to think about the conversations that I avoid just to avoid conflict. Even dealing with rude behavior is something that I would shy away from.

I host a coffee shop meet up where people who are more introverted can get together and just talk, or meet new people, or just get out of the house. This meet is advertised on the internet and that means that we get all kinds of people with differing levels of social skills. Sometimes the people who come don’t mix very well. It’s rare but sometimes, as the host, I have to step in and mediate when things get out of hand. This is an example of a Hard Conversation because it is completely unavoidable if I want people to come back to these meet ups.

I am not great at dealing with conflict so when one rises in a meet up I host I don’t always have the best solution. I see things very logically and I don’t always take into account how other people feel when resolving a disagreement. This is something that I need to work on. I need to start thinking about how others are feeling and realize that not everyone follows the same logic paths that I do. In the next few weeks I want to find a way to start recognizing the feelings of others. I will then start to work with those feelings to resolve issues and conflicts that come my way.

Time For a Rest

Have you ever had a hard week at work (or just life, really)? It drains you and if you don’t get a break the next week can just drag on. You feel tired and even when you can get the needed sleep in, you just can’t seem to get back to your old self. I find that being overwhelmed with problems is the hardest thing to come out of on top. This has happened to me this week. No matter what I do, even a good night’s sleep hasn’t brought me back. What I have realized is that getting the rest you need isn’t just for each night. You need to have some time off to just recuperate. This can take on many forms depending on what type of person you are and what you like to do.

I have learned over the years that you really have to be picky about what you do in these times. It’s necessary that you choose something that you like to do but you have to remember that just because you like it, it will not automatically help the situation. I try to choose an activity that requires just the right amount of concentration. A balance between freeing your mind to think and occupying your thoughts or distracting yourself. This balance is actually really tough to find. For example, I love to play Minecraft but if I do that I can just put my fingers into autopilot and free my mind to think of other things. This is great when I have a problem to think on but if I have been having a hard time, this tends to make me overthink and I can spiral down all the worst paths of thought. On the other end, if I try to read a particularly engaging book, it has the opposite effect. I don’t think about my problems at all and I don’t feel better when I return to the “real world.” One of the activities that provides me a balance is listening to some of my favorite music. I have an album that I can play constantly and I never get bored of it. When I am listening to music, I can either immerse myself in it or let it become the background. I get to choose how much I want to think and how much I want to listen. This is the kind of balance that can make you feel rested. If you get to choose how much to engage, you tend to automatically choose the right level of distraction.

I encourage you to find an activity that you can do that fits these criteria:

  • You enjoy the activity.
  • You can let it occupy most of your mind.
  • You can put your mind on automatic and free some thought for your current problems.
  • The activity has minimal prep time. (This is so you can access it whenever. Traveling the world, for instance is not a good idea for this type of activity.)

Listening to music fits this bill for me. If you find something that works for you hold on to it. The rest and relaxation you get from it is worth it. We all get overwhelmed and we all need to just step back for a bit. Try it out, I think you’ll like it.

Patience and the Sciences

Over the last few months I have been binging on all things Neil deGrasse Tyson and let me tell you, that man is an insanely good speaker. I have always had an interest in the physical sciences and engineering, so his shows like Cosmos and the Inexplicable Universe are incredible insights into the world of practical science. Modern astrophysicists and theoretical physicists are the great explorers of our time. They are pioneers out there on the edge of human knowledge and understanding. I think it’s a wonder that more people aren’t interested in these people and their research. In many of Tyson’s lectures he refers to the short sightedness of the government and even the public. One of his examples is the time delay between Faraday’s original electromagnetic experiments and the first uses of generators in industry. The gap is about 30 years and the principles of Faraday’s experiments are still the basics of how all of our electricity is created today.

I think the real reason that there is not more interest in these pioneer sciences is that most people (including myself) are geared by our current culture for instant gratification. Think about it, how long would you wait for a computer program to boot up before you think there is a problem? How long do you want to wait for a product to be delivered to you from across the world? I admit that I suffer this type of bias in my work all the time. My software testing has me working on a combination of software and hardware that is not your standard PC. One of our consoles (they are pretty much panels with screens and small pseudo computers) takes up to three minutes to boot up. When was the last time your computer took three minutes to boot? (If your computer always takes 3 minutes… well you should get that looked at) Patience is just not in our cultures vocabulary these days. With our hectic lives we don’t want to wait for results. We want the tree and not the seed. The problem with this attitude is that there are many worthwhile things that take time. Improving skills and paying off mortgages are just a couple of examples.

I think that this impatience is not new. If humans as a species where not impatient, then faster means of travel would only have been a novelty, faster way of cooking food would not exist. We see other people who can improve faster than us and we are impatient about our own progress. Ultimately though, I believe that this impatience stems from our own memory and its perception of time. Based solely off of my own experiences, I can never truly recall how long events took place. Usually I have to go off of specific events that I remember actual times for and do the math. This type of remembering gets even harder when the timescale increases to beyond a couple of weeks. When was the last wedding you attended? How long did the ceremony last? If you can answer these, good for you, you have an excellent memory.

We don’t realize how long things take and get impatient for results. While sometimes this is a good thing, we need to be able to recognize when waiting is called for. Not everything is fast, so next time you find yourself asking “are we there yet?” Take a second look. Maybe patience is called for.