- Thoughts for inspired living

November 25, 2008


Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 5:57 am

When you have a conversation with someone, you are either sharing reality or sharing philosophy. It’s helpful to know which conversation you’re having.

When we are sharing reality, it’s an IS/ISN’T conversation.

It’s a SHOULD/SHOULDN’T conversation if we’re sharing philosophy.

Reality conversations are fact based and can be quite boring, but useful. Swapping philosophies is more interesting, but not always productive.

If someone says to you that you or someone else “should, ought to, must” do something, you are being treated to their philosophy. You can agree or disagree, sympathize, empathize, or just be a sounding board. Philosophy based conversations oftentimes contain shouting, laughing, crying and frustration.

Reality based conversations have the excitement of a review I once read about the singing of Olivia Newton-John. The music critic described her like this: “If white bread could sing.”

Reality based conversations are great when getting down to the nitty-gritty of negotiating, in the operating room, and quite useful in therapy and other areas where miscommunication could be costly. They can also prevent you from attending a pity party.

The purpose of this blog is to recognize which conversation you’re in.

When you state an indisputable fact and someone responds with a SHOULD/SHOULDN’T, you are involved in a mixed conversation. It is helpful at that point to demarcate the philosophy from the reality so the two don’t get confused. Perhaps an example would be helpful . . .

Let’s pretend you are chatting with a friend or family member and they say, “My boss has no heart. He’s a money grabbing elitist and he doesn’t acknowledge his sales team for the work they do that brings in so much money. He should call a meeting and let them know how wonderful a job they are doing. He could at least cater a lunch to show he honors our efforts – a pizza party, something!”

You ask, “Isn’t this the same man who told you during your first interview that he shows his gratitude with bonus money?” They respond, “Yes, but people need more than money to know they’re doing a good job.”

So where do you want the conversation to go from here?

You could agree ad nauseam about what a lousy boss he is and align your philosophies about how a decent boss should act. This is mutually throwing up in the choir loft and it usually solves nothing.

You could also say, “The fact is, he chooses to show his gratitude with bonus money. I don’t see how you can change his behavior by excluding him from this conversation. If you truly want different behavior from him, it won’t help telling me about it. By the way, you promised to tell me about a fascinating book you just read. What’s it about?”

If you enjoy the pissing and moaning, keep adding to the fire until you run out of fuel. If it’s a conversation you want to shift to another topic, make it reality based and factually conclude it; then deftly pivot to another topic.

There are benefits to both reality based and philosophy based conversations. This is not expressing a preference for one over the other. It’s more about recognizing the framework you’re in when conversing, and deciding if you want to stay there or not.

My philosophy is it’s better to have choices, so as often as I can, I make it a reality.

All the best,


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