Posts Tagged 'discussions'

Conservation of Energy


In physics, the law of energy conservation states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant. It can’t be created or destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another. Our understanding of the universe relies on this principle.

It often (not always) applies to people and relationships, too.

If you escalate (cut off in traffic, angry at the gate agent, frustrated at your boss), you’ve just added (negative) energy to a conversation.

If you escalate (enthusiasm, a hug, encouraging words), you’ve just added (positive) energy to a conversation.

Once the energy is added, it has to go somewhere. Often, the person you’re engaging with throws it right back, or even increases it. The problem with taking offense is that it’s really hard to figure out what to do with it after you’re done using it. Better to just leave it on the table and walk away. Umbrage untaken quietly disappears. A talented, mature person might take your negative energy and de-escalate it, or even swallow it and permit the conversation to calm down or end. But don’t count on it.

You can ‘win’ a conversation by overwhelming your opponent with energy they can’t handle. But of course, they’re not your opponent and you don’t really win. Being aware of the energy you add or take from interactions is a sophisticated technique that radically changes the outcomes of the conversations that fill your day. Add the good stuff, absorb the bad stuff and focus on the outcomes, not the bravado. Winning isn’t the point.

Two Kinds of Argument


Scientific -vs- the other kind. The scientific kind relies on what the facts say. The science can be proven wrong by better science. The other kind relies on what emotions say or pride.

If you need to convince someone who refuses to act like a scientist (listening to facts), making better science isn’t going to help you very much. The person you’re arguing with (who might be a scientist during the day, even, but is merely being a person right now) is not going to be swayed from a firmly held opinion by your work to make better science. It’s more likely that it will take cultural pressure, shame, passion, humor, connection and a host of unreliable levers to make your point.

The easy way to tell the two varieties of argument apart is to ask, “what evidence would you need to see to change your mind about this?”

Don’t argue about belief, argue about arguments. The essence of a belief is that we own it, regardless of what’s happening around us. The key to making a rational argument is that your assertions must be falsifiable.

“I believe A because of B and C.” If someone can show you that “C” isn’t actually true, then it’s not okay to persist in arguing “A”. The statement, “All swans are white” is falsifiable, because if I can find even one black swan, we’re done.

On the other hand, “Aliens are about to take over the world with flying saucers,” is not, because there’s nothing I can do or demonstrate that would satisfy the person who might respond, “well, they’re just very well hidden, and they’re waiting us out.”

If belief in “A” is important to someone’s story, people usually pile up a large number of arguments that are either not testable, or matters of opinion and taste. There’s nothing wrong with believing “A”, but it’s counterproductive to engage with someone in a discussion about whether you’re right or not. It’s a belief, or an opinion, both of which are fine things to have, but it’s not a logical conclusion or a coherent argument, because those require asserting something we can actually test.

You can’t argue with feelings. The key question is, “is there something I can prove or demonstrate that would make you stop believing in ‘A’?” If the honest answer is ‘no’, then we’re not having an argument, are we?

Before we waste a lot of time arguing about something that appears to be a rational, logical conclusion, let’s be sure we are both having the same sort of discussion.

A Beautiful Story


A man and woman happen to meet. It wasn’t particularly notable. These things happen every day. People’s individual circumstances and trajectories cause the necessary interactions that put us in proximity with others. In this case no particular sparks flew, however, over time as they got to know each other something changed. They liked each other. Their personalities meshed in a comfortable way. As they became a little more familiar with each other their discussions began to tread into areas beyond what was germane to their interactions. This was comfortable and enjoyable to them, so they proceeded, and the discussions began to take on more of a substantial quality. Pretty soon they both began to realize that something was happening. You could say that the sparks began to ignite. It felt good. They fed off of each other, and began to support each other in emotionally substantial ways. Finally, with the writing on the wall, one got the nerve to ask the other out on a date. All went swimmingly, which led to another date, and another. Soon they were in very deep conversations. Romantic ones. Discussions of the future. What they each wanted out of life, and out of a partner in that life. As these discussions flowed it seemed to them like they were more than just compatible. They were building each other up in ways that made them greater than the sum of their individual identities. As this happened the physical part of their relationship blossomed, and served to reinforce the emotional attachment that had taken shape. As time went by they made more substantial commitments to each other. The trust was deepened through the continued actions of their partnership as a couple. This is not to say there weren’t issues and bumps, even significant road blocks along the way. While it wasn’t always easy, they overcame those because they were in love, and it was powerful. There was no stopping that force. They cared about each other and wanted to be together. With each passing day it became more clear that they were so much more together than they could be apart. One eventually got the nerve to propose to the other, and they were married. They embarked on a life together, as officially recognized partners. True love – whatever that is – as the fuel that would continue to propel them forward. A beautiful love story with a happy outcome.


Here’s another story…

One day a man came terribly close to losing his life. He was badly wounded, but survived. Certain events serve to illuminate the fragility of this thing we call life, and with his new lease he was optimistic, even though there were some serious wounds. During his recovery in the hospital he worked with various mental and physical therapists. The damage was great, but ultimately he would be okay, though scarred.

As he interacted with the various people helping him, they would talk about increasingly varied things. One woman began to stand out as special. Their conversations gradually became more interesting to him, and more compelling. She had such a kind heart and was a beautiful person in every way. In time their discussions became deep. Well beyond the boundaries of what would be considered ‘normal’ between a patient and a medical professional.

Meanwhile this woman, who was very much enjoying this man and their increasingly deep conversations, was struggling. She had been trained not to get personally involved with patients. There was a clear imbalance of power between them. So many things can go wrong. It’s considered unethical – a real taboo. She fought away the thoughts she had about liking this man, but they would return. It’s hard to control thoughts and/or the feelings we associate with them. When she was with him and talking to him, she felt something. It seemed real, and powerful.

The man, having little real understanding of the conflict no doubt going on within her, was just being himself, and enjoying getting to know this person. The woman, seduced by the good feelings she associated with this man, began to forsake her oath and succumbed to her desires. She had needs, and he was meeting them.

We’re told or trained this is a recipe for disaster. He was vulnerable. She took advantage of that to satisfy herself. Once things inevitably would go wrong, for any of the numerous reasons it can, especially under dubious circumstances such as these, it would get extremely messy. Their professional relationship would be destroyed, as both she and the hospital were in a very precarious place legally…because this sort of thing just isn’t done. There are rules against it. She put the hospital at risk, and would have been fired had anyone known. She was the trained professional and should have known better than to ‘get involved’ with a patient.

But of course none of that happened. I’m sure the reader surmised paragraphs ago that these two stories are the same story. Though this writer did provide some logical, common sense embellishments, the story is true. These people are married and happy now.

She broke the rules and risked her professional career. Put the hospital at risk, and most importantly put the patient’s care and well being at risk. Had things not worked out people would have looked down upon her, some likely going so far as to think of her as a bad person. If your thoughts disagree with that, then consider what goes through your mind when you hear about a teacher having a relationship with a student. A high school student. Reverse the sexes of the two and then experiment with your thoughts. Yet there are examples of true and lasting loves being born out of these situations.

So we say, “Okay, maybe that can happen, but it isn’t likely,” therefore we need those rules and associated taboos to prevent people’s bad judgement from doing damage. Maybe. I make no argument against the rules, such as they are. Love and passion, if strong and powerful enough, sees those only as points of resistance. Things that can be overcome or worked around. Then we have the judgers. All of the people who may look down upon the situation as being morally and/or ethically ‘wrong.’ The black and white crowd, who feel licensed for whatever reason to apply their own moral sensibilities and fears to the circumstances of others, even though they don’t usually know or understand many of the nuances, and often don’t know the people involved. It was probably very difficult for the two of them to navigate it at times.

It’s a beautiful story because love conquered all of this. The two individuals had the character to handle it and each other in a way that worked. There was risk. And yes, it could be argued the risk was too great for her to have proceeded. But now that it all worked out we don’t think about that. We tend to just see and report on the beauty of a feel good story. And who is to really say that even if the romance derailed and went wrong anything notably bad would have happened? Romances end peacefully every day. They could have moved on as friends who went through some interesting and tough times together. Who is to say? There is always risk in life. Being a good human involves taking calculated risks. Hardly anything good will happen unless risks are taken to get there. Life just isn’t that comfortable and clean.

Be careful about judging too harshly the risks others are willing to take. The perhaps more measured than you’re aware of decisions to try to find happy and good outcomes for themselves. If we give up on that, and all just live in the box…life wouldn’t be nearly as compelling. Here’s to the risk takers, and rule breakers! Happy New Year.


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