Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lecture Voice

I have always been an argumentative chap. I have managed to twist this into defining myself as 'curious'. A combative debate style when you are trying to win often leads to bruised egos and miffed mojos. It isn't actually that fun having a discussion with someone who shoots down everything you say. The other disadvantage of going in guns blazing is you don't walk away knowing anything more. So in reality, you have lost. You may have refined the way you tell the world the truth, but it is only in finding a chink in your argument that you actually gain anything. We learn when things go wrong, not when we glide along smoothly.

A friend captures me talking a few years back - not rare

I still make the mistake of slipping into 'lecture mode' occasionally.  I am having a chat with someone and we stumble onto something the other person hasn't looked at much. I loathe it when I am the recipient of an unsolicited lecture, so when I catch myself doing it, I feel very naughty. There is a very specific tone of voice people take when they have turned off the discussion. When they are telling you something rather than the two of you dancing towards a deeper understanding together.

I was very involved in the church growing up. I went to various protestant Christian churches (Methodist, Anglican and Baptist) and got involved in lots of discussions trying to get deeper into the meaning of life. When we got to a point where there were clashing ideas, sometimes the person I was talking to would turn to the lecture voice. It is similar to the 'reading voice'. We don't talk the same when we are chatting as we do when we are repeating something we have read somewhere. The reason this bothered me was I had normally read the same things. In this case, the Bible. I know there is value in hearing a message over and over. You can think of it differently each time. It can soak in. But that has its time and place, and a discussion turning to a lesson isn't much fun.

I now have what I call my 'anthropological switch'. When I am chatting with someone and realise they have turned on the lecture voice, I stop trying to have a discussion. I try and just ask questions. A form of Theatre Sports. In Theatre Sports they teach you it isn't helpful to obstruct. Always go with the flow and build on what the person has said. Don't look for holes, look for flavour. Add.

This is a similar way to the approach I now take with Yoga, or any philosophical or religious school. My aim isn't to pull apart the argument. It is to listen to it. To see it as a story. To give it the benefit of the doubt. To see the value. Rather than trying to enforce my story, listening helps me walk away knowing a little more about the story of others.

I still need nudging when I do slip into my lecture voice. Those closest to me seem to have figured out a way to do this with a wink and a smile.

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