“One conversation at a time.”

I was talking to a friend recently about a complicated situation and doing my usual over-thinking thing, trying to figure out what I would say and what he would say and what that would mean and then what I should say about that thing he said and then what he would probably say about that and what that would mean and whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing and what it might lead to and how I should address that and how me might react and so on and so on and so on until finally my friend told me to slow down.

“One conversation at a time,” she counseled.

That certainly shut my mouth. In a good way.

Being thoughtful and analytical about my own actions is not a bad thing, if I don’t get carried away and descend into pointless rumination. But talk about pointless–writing scripts for another person’s side of a conversation doesn’t do me, the other person, or the situation any good. And jumping three conversations in the future, before I even know how the first will resolve, is counterproductive.

It’s one thing to think through possible responses to whatever it is I have to say and prepare myself. It’s something else altogether to make assumptions about what the response will be and gird myself. And it’s something else yet again to go even beyond that and start preparing for every related discussion that might arise.

All that does is send me into a panicky tizzy, and possibly prevent me from starting the conversation altogether. It’s going from Point A to Point Q without pausing for all the other points between. It might interfere with my ability to really hear what the other person is saying.

This actually is a sort of mindfulness technique that reminds me to stop listening to myself and start listening to what the other person is really saying. And then, when that conversation is done, I can think about it all, and if there’s another conversation to be had, I can have that conversation. And another conversation and another and another and another—as many conversations as necessary. As long as I have them one at a time.


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Image by AJ Cann via Flickr (Creative Commons).