What I re-learned in Crucial Conversations class is that you can have “better” conversations with people if you’re able to control your initial emotional reactions and apply some learnable communication skills.
And while it’s been my experience that these techniques really do work, I haven’t used them as much I could have because they also seem to take a lot of the zest out of being alive.
For example: Several years ago, we had an electrical problem at the house, where we weren’t getting power in any of the front rooms.
My wife was home when the electrician came out — I was at work — and he fixed the problem in five minutes.
When I got home, she was unhappy that he’d charged us 50 dollars for five minutes of work.
My first thought was, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. What should we do? Save 50 bucks and sit in the dark for the rest of our lives? What do you care how long it took him? He fixed the problem.”
As it happens though, I had just finished reading the Mars/Venus book, in which I learned that while men like to solve problems, women prefer a little empathy, so what I actually said was, “Gee honey, that must have been very upsetting.”
Well, that absolutely floored her. And as she stood there gaping at me, I said, “I mean it. That sounds very upsetting.”
So I sidestepped a colossal argument but I also realized that I couldn’t do that on a regular basis because I’d wind up listening to a lot of nonsense, throwing myself on conversational grenades and keeping all of my best lines to myself.