Category Archives: Conversation

Have Better Conversations

Politeness is a measure of wealth. If people treat you well, you tend to treat others well. If people treat you badly, you tend to treat others badly.

People aggregate around what is familiar and comfortable. So people who treat each other badly find each other and continue the cycle of abuse. People who treat each other well find each other and continue the wealth inequality.

the conversation topic and the perspective on the world and the emotions displayed express your wealth.

topic: work stress vs vacation plans. Poor people complain about how work sucks. Rich people talk about all the opportunities they’re considering for vacation.

perspective: out of control, blame others vs in control, decision difficulty. Poor people talk about coping with problems caused by other people. Rich people talk about making decisions that affect other people.

emotions: needing validation so fixating on details vs healthy so jumping from topic to topic without emotional attachment or triggers. Poor people want to be heard and understood: they seek empathy. Rich people want their problems fixed: they seek solutions.

SF Chinatown 2019

Do you know what the difference is between Hi, Hey, and Hello?

In this article, we will increase our observation skills by digging deep into the meaning behind the greeting.  What is someone saying when they use different word choice like Hi, Hey, or Hello?  Let’s begin by analyzing the words themselves.

Hi and Hello both express a greeting, and that is their only meaning.  Hey is a word that both means a greeting, and it means a interjection.  “Hey stop that” for example.  Thus, Hey is a more aggressive term than Hi or Hello.  So why would you ever use a more aggressive term to greet someone?  The answer is baked into psychology: You can treat your friends worse than strangers because you know they will forgive you and they know you don’t mean it.  As a result, Hey becomes an acceptable greeting and it is a mark of close friendship. Alternatively, if the two people are not friends and Hey is used as a greeting, it can be a mark of disrespect.  When you’re meeting someone new, you generally don’t open with animosity because that would be picking a fight. When you meet someone new, you generally want to go neutral, so you’d say Hi or Hello.  So now we’ve figured out the difference between Hi and Hello, and Hey.

What’s the difference between Hi and Hello?  First observations are that Hi is shorter than Hello, so therefore it takes less time to say Hi than it takes to say Hello.  This can be interpreted two ways. One way is if the person is lazy, they will say the shorter word Hi.  Showing laziness is a form of disrespect: I don’t care to present myself with energy because I don’t see you as a threat or worthy of my attention and energy.  Alternatively, this can be interpreted as respect: I don’t have the right to speak, so I’ll limit my time speaking and instead leave more time for you to talk.  How do you know which is which? The tone of voice. If the Hi is weak and very short (and often high pitched), then they are afraid an it is a sign of respect.  If the Hi is strong (and often low pitched) and drawn out with lazy energy, then it’s likely a sign of disrespect.

There’s more we can dig into, such as the number of beats the person spends on each syllable of the greeting, and the direction of the tone (is it Hi with a high pitch dropping down, or a low pitch curving up, or the same pitch monotone), but I’ll focus instead of on eye contact because that says more about the situation.  The angle of the person’s face in relation to yours says a lot about the greeting. The general rule is if they look down, they are submissive to you as if they are bowing to you. If they look up, they are superior to you because they are looking down their nose at you. If they look at you head on, then they are present with you in the moment. This signal, in addition to the signals above, can give you a more holistic picture of the interaction and therefore more confidence in your interpretation of the interaction. It’s more reliable to see many signals that agree with each other than to focus on just one signal alone.

To summarize briefly the pivot points

  • word choice (Hi, Hello, Hey)
  • angle of head (up, down, level)

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Giving Unhurtful Feedback

I am notorious for giving cruel, uncaring, cutting feedback.  I thought that if I was clear, firm, and to the point, I would achieve perfect communication.  This is true only for robots, but not for humans with emotions.

Here’s what I thought happens when two people talk:

(idea in head) -> words spoken -> sound in air -> words heard by other person -> (idea in head)

Here’s what actually happens

(idea in head) -> words spoken with tone and expressed with body language -> sound in air and visual imagery -> other person’s emotions at the time + other person’s unconscious biases and habits + other person’s beliefs and world view + other person’s view on the relationship between you and them + other person’s feelings of their relationships with themselves and the rest of the world at that moment + what you said + what they interpret what you said meant + what they see + what they interpret what they see meant -> (idea in head)

As a result, when I say something like “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”  What I think is happening is I’m clearly communicating what needs to be addressed, and how it needs to be addressed.  What is happening is I’m 1. taking authority and command and superiority to tell the other person what to do 2. making them feel small 3. making them feel threatened 4. making them feel confused and afraid from the threat 5. making them question why 6. making them insecure about whether to trust the information or not 7. wonder about my intentions 8. wonder about the impact on the relationship and on them self if they obey and if they don’t obey 9. creating a hostile environment into which it is difficult to give feedback, ask for clarification, be equal 10. etc.

Instead, lead with intent that is selflessly benevolent to the other person: I want you to do well, so I care if something bad happens to you. I an concerned that if you do that, a unfortunate etc. thing will happen to you, which I don’t want.  So my solution to the situation is to do this because given my experience etc. will happen. What do you think?

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