Can You Intellectualize Your Way Out Of A Paperback?

I was recently in a place where I needed to have a uncomfortable conversation with someone. I'm sure we've all been there. You don't want to, but you know you need to. It will probably hurt at first, but the relationship (and you) will be better off for it.

Ironically, this is very much like pulling a band-aid off. 

So I started to plan my course of action. First, where should this conversation take place?

Text? No, I respect this relationship more than that.

Phone? Too impersonal and I can't see their reactions (more on this in a bit)

My place/Their place? No, offers too much of the "home court" advantage.

Public meeting it is then.

I then followed this same course of thinking for all of the details. 

  • How will I start the conversation...
  • How do I want them to feel...
  • How do I want to feel...
  • What's my desired outcome...
  • What are the possible objections... 

Ugh! If only there were a book on this stuff.

Well actually there is, and that's a problem. There are pages and pages on Amazon (or shelves and shelves if you are still a bookstore going person) of just such books. They aren't confined to one category either. Self-help, self-development, business, psychology, they are all over. I've read so many books on how to have a conversation, understanding body language, trying to get to the persons real meaning, coming to win-win solutions, the psychology of change, etc., that I'm a self-admitted over-intellectualizer. I'm now able to discern all possible outcomes of a situation before I actually encounter it and then build out a list of "what if's" for those too. I have even intellectualized my way out of having the conversations in the past because, "Oh I know how this will turn out. No need to address it."


Here's the even bigger problem, by doing all the reading and thinking and planning I've now made the other person a character in the one man show performed by yours truly. I have basically written a script of how I think this conversation will play out in my head. This may be ok for Hollywood, but is no bueno in real life! What if that person goes "off script" and tells me something I didn't know? What if it's about myself and a blind spot I have? And what about the natural emotions in the moment?

The solution to all of this is to act! I must actually have this conversation, as uncomfortable as it might be and with no attachment to the outcome. I must allow the other person to respond in a natural and heartfelt way. I must be present and able to hear them when they tell me things I don't necessarily like, agree with, or know about myself. And finally, I should absorb the information in the books but also be wise enough not to think that all situations will play nicely in my script.

I hope you aren't an over-intellectualizer too, but if you are maybe you stand to read that last paragraph a few more times?

AttitudeGary Leake