“Even when Chivalry was not angry, being Skilled by him was like being trampled by a horse. Or ducked in a fast-flowing river, more like. He’d get in a hurry, and barge into you and dump his information and flee.”

Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Apprentice

I think I can be a hard person to talk to.  I try to cut to the centre of what we are talking about, so I ask questions that are hard to answer, attack other people’s points, and when I’m talking I talk quickly and for a long time to try and drive my point home.

The problem is it can feel like a job interview if I’m interested in you, and if I want to help, it can feel like a lecture.  I got away with this for a long time working in a university – It’s far too normal there.

Well, maybe he thought that your speeches were obscurantist policy tracts

lost in a cul-de-sac of their own internal self-righteousness and groaning from the

weight of statistics. I’m just speculating. I can’t say for sure.

Will Bailey, West Wing “Arctic Radar”

I feel quite bad about having shouted down people who might like to get a few words of their own in between my yelling.  I want to turn this ‘attacking’ off. Maybe use it sometimes, but as a choice, rather than ‘normal’.

So last year one of my goals was to “swallow 100 stories in 2015”.  All I had to do was keep quiet when there was a chance to tell a story, or a ‘useful’ fact.   100 times.

This was really hard. Really hard. By May I’d managed to avoid telling about 20 stories. It’s been good thing to do in all of those cases, but it’s really really hard.

This goal turned out to be ‘learn an completely new way of having a conversation’.  A way that was took more notice of:

  • the topic;
  • the other person
  • the time we had left to talk
  • what other things we were interested in talking about

My old way was ‘get the most information out of me and into you and out of your and into me’, so this was different.

I did get thought my 100 stories in the year.  Some where stopping myself from boasting, some where avoiding an attack, and some where leaving space in the conversation for the other person to direct.   It was a  good change.  I’ve got a long way to go yet and I’m looking forward to taking more steps on the road.