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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Interrupting, Anger and Ground Rules

Here we go again. The age old, Is-Interrupting-a-sin? debate. Maybe it's not age-old. Just seems that way - in our household anyways. Thankfully, after many lengthy discussions, Sam and I have tabled it pretty much, coming to an understanding that we just view this a bit differently and that is okay because we love each other and we will try to appease the other and extend grace to the other as much as possible. If only it were so simple with everyone else in the world. (And for the record, it would be me trying to appease - as in, not interrupt - and Sam would be the one extending grace, for the times I fail to bite my tongue).

I have often thought I should just make a sign and paste it to my forehead that reads: 'Interrupt me please. Otherwise I won't stop talking.' Or have a handy card to hand out to people who are just meeting or getting to know me that explains that my version of conversation is such that I talk until someone else starts, and then I jump in when there is something I want to say about what they're saying, and I seem to expect that this model of conversation is okay with the other person and not offensive in the least. And that for the most part, since I don't mind if others interrupt me, I have figured others won't mind when I interrupt. At that point I think I have finally learned that my assumptions may, on occasion, be false. But I'm a work in progress - still learning.

In our many and lengthy discussions Sam has often quoted to me, 'Everyone one of you should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.' At which point the conversation heads south as I get really irritated with the sermonizing. Usually I get really sarcastic and say, 'Say no more! Just say, 'repeat lecture 38b, paragraph 20' and I'll know to insert all that you're about to say.' Thankfully Sam has learned to cope with this nastiness and drops it. Which is really wise, because really, he doesn't need to say anymore. I get his point!

I was thinking on this verse again recently and it dawned on me (duh.) that speech and anger have a close connection. And perhaps interrupting finds its way into this too. One thing that has helped me significantly reduce my interrupting is a change in my thinking. It used to be that I believed that silence meant agreement. So, if you were talking, and were saying, 'I think women should never wear pants...' I would immediately feel a needful pressure building inside that would say, 'No no no - I do not agree! Let me jump in and protest here for a minute!' Because in the past I have felt that if I listen to someone saying something I don't agree with, without chiming in with my immediate response to the contrary, that I will somehow give the impression that I approve, agree with and condone their point of view! It took me a long time to realize that my silence is not necessarily approval. Yay! I can bite my tongue and have a stern disagreement with the speaker in my head without jumping in to correct them (though he/she may need it OH SO BADLY!) But it is still very difficult for me. So, pray for me in this, will you?

And then there are those who demand that others not interrupt them, but then cannot stand it when someone else is saying something they do not like, and simply MUST jump in. In that case, it is a double standard because he then violates his own rules. If we are to have rules of interrupting, it must go both ways. There must be an understanding. Either the flow of the conversation is 'anything goes' (that's the way I like it! - but can result in some pretty fiery discussions, to accompany my red hair) - or there are ground-rules like: Each person gets to share their thoughts on ONE matter, and then the other is allowed to respond without interruption to that ONE issue. If you broaden it to more than one topic or issue, you will have lengthy monologues and one may dominate the conversation (uh, that would end up being me, just in case you didn't guess).

So, take it or leave it. Either relax and enjoy the ride or follow ground-rules. Both call for wise discernment and self-control - because even in the relaxed mode, you have to consider the other person or you'll end up in a scuffle.


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