Tuesday, May 26, 2009


"Now," came the voice from my speakers, "what do you think about Michael after listening to that scenario?"

"I think Michael is a jackass," I replied conversationally, keeping my hands on the wheel as I learned how to have a dialogue when it mattered the most.

"How would your future interactions with Michael be?" the voice asked.

"Minimal," I answered. "I shall plot to have him fired."

"Would you avoid him?" The voice prompted again.

"As much as possible," I decided. "But I have to see him sometimes to campaign against him."

"Or would you be driven to fight?"

"Good idea!" I praised the radio. "I will endeavor to make his life difficult."

"Remember that fight nor flight is the best option," the voice offered and I scowled at the time displayed on the CD player. "Now how could you approach Michael to make progress toward your mutual goals?"

"Unless he'd like to be fired," I snapped, "I don't think we have mutual goals!"

"Maybe Michael was having a bad day," the voice suggested.

"Maybe Michael is just a jackass," I replied.

"Perhaps he is concerned that you aren't doing what he asked you to do."

"Still a jackass!" I gasped with indignant dismay - why would this Michael person doubt that I'd follow through?! - while reaching to flip on my turn signal.

I am the jackass, I thought sulkily as I sat in a meeting. We were having a global teleconference and it was Not Going Well. I blinked in surprise when I realized people were driven toward fight or flight during tense conversations. My particular room was silent - we wouldn't reply even when asked a direct question. Other rooms around the world were buzzing angrily, tossing out strongly-worded phrases and scoffs of disdain. And - for the life of me - I couldn't devise a way to correct the downward trend.

Make it safe, I remembered, squinting with effort. Um...contrast what you don't intend with what you do so that people understand you're not really a jackass. Don't assign motivations to people and stick only with the facts of the situation as you try not to grow offended. Find areas of agreement...or something...

Just then, someone irritated me and I snapped a sarcastic remark before I could stop myself. I'm failing the audio-lesson, I pouted, and soon left. If I'm going to screw it up, I may as well hit silent, confrontational and absent all in one meeting.

I did not play the CD on my drive home, but heard the voice just the same. "Did you get what you wanted from that interaction?" it asked, not unkindly.

Perhaps I should restart the series and try again.


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