Too often, that which has the capacity to make our lives most fulfilling leaves us precisely when we need it most.
I was reminded recently that in any two-person conversation, at least six personalities show up.
On your end are two versions of you: (P1) the real you—the person you are in that place of deep trust, honesty and love; and, (P2) the you who actually speaks—complicated by your past, culture, emotional highs and lows, biases and prejudices.
Speaking from the other end are the same two versions of your partner (P3 & P4).
The final two people who participate are (P5) your biased version of your partner and (P6) his or her biased version of you. They do not see you as either of the two people who represent you, and you do not see them as either version of themselves.
P1—Real, sincere you
P3—Real, sincere partner
P5—The partner you perceive
P6—The you your partner perceives
Let’s take this buggy for a spin and see how it rides. Scenario: You are a mom who walks into your teenage son’s room…it’s a disaster! You storm out of the room. P1, the loving Mom who walked into the room has left the building, replaced by P2, the Mom who suddenly fears the boy she loves is destined to end up on drugs and in the gutter!
Meanwhile, the son just texted his girlfriend. They’re going to a movie and he needs the car.
You and your son meet—or shall I say collide—in the kitchen.
P3, the son who just spent an hour straightening up his room and feels pretty good about his progress, lets loose with the opening salvo. “Mom, can borrow the car to take Shelly to the movies at 7?”
“Are you kidding,” says frightened Mom (P2) to her son who she now sees as slovenly, selfish and ungrateful (P5). “Not until you clean your room!”
Happy, carefree son (P3) has now exited, replaced by P4, the son who is suddenly ultra defensive and sees you as too demanding…a person who never credits him with anything (P6). “All she ever sees,” he convinces himself, “are the few, little things I forget to do!”
P2 is now talking to P5 and P4 is replying to P6! Confused? Ever have a similar encounter with family, neighbors, customers, suppliers, co-workers…or the mechanic you think overcharged you for car repairs?
If the conversation includes five people, trust me, hundreds of personalities vie for a hearing.
Why is it, when we most need to be the essence of our best self, we get lost in the emotion of the moment and show up as someone we often don’t even recognize?
The truth is, I misspoke when I suggested six personalities show up in a conversation between two people. If you review the collision between you and your son, the trusting, honest, loving people both of you have the capacity to be, exit the conversation early and never reappear.
How might we invite our true and authentic self to remain in the world…and extend the same invitation to those about whom we care most? I think we might be astonished by life if you and I could talk, and leave the other four out of the conversation.