Saturday, February 07, 2009

drawing souls or just discrepancies

On my first date with Charles we argued so vehemently that we ended up sitting on opposite ends of a public bench in Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, seething. Pink cherry blossoms fluttered past as I vowed to never date this man again, ruing the fact that we attended the same parish. Looking back now it is clear that the same dynamic that fueled our anger was also the impetus which brought us together.

Nowadays it goes something like this:

Me: I don't think Isaiah should go out like this, he needs his ears covered.
Charles: It's not that cold, he'll be fine.
Me: Yes, it is cold. And babies get earaches easily.
Charles: You are such a worrier.
Me: Well, the books say that their ears... er, well, I'm just trying to be a good mom.
Charles: Every mother has some thing she obsesses about.
Me: I'm not obsessing! Why do you always disagree with me?

It seems like every conversation is a more or less dramatic version of this, ending in me yelling, "Why don't you just agree with me?" Which is where it gets confusing, because then Charles says he does agree with me. And has all along.

If he did agree with me, though, I imagine a scenario more like this:

Me: I don't think Isaiah should go out like this, he needs his ears covered.
Charles: Oh, of course, it's cold. Where is his hat?

I was thinking about this yesterday in the shower (being the only place where I can think anymore), and when I got out I sat down next to Charles with a pad and colored pens. I said I had a few questions to ask him, and he looked at my pad and markers and said, "oh, no, is this one of those things where we have to draw our souls?"

I rolled my eyes and drew a circle. I said, "How often do you agree or disagree, in general, with what people have to say?" He said it was fifty-fifty. I cut the circle in two and colored the section for agree green and the section for disagree pink (see figure 1 above). Then, "Well, how do you think people perceive your response to what they are saying? What percentage of the time do they think you agree or disagree with what they are saying? Like here, on a pie-chart." Charles figured that only 25% of the time they thought he agreed with them and 75% of the time they thought he disagreed with them (figure 2). Then I asked, "How often do you agree with what I have to say?" "Ninety percent of the time" he said comfortably. I raised my eyebrows, and drew another pink and green pie chart (see figure 1a). Then, drawing the fourth circle, I said, "Well, here is how often I think you agree with me." I drew a small sliver for "agree," indicating that I assume he is agreeing with me only, say, 15% of the time (see figure 2a).

I don't know what conclusion you would draw from this exercise, but I'd say that this neat little discrepancy is why we argue so much.


Ser said...

This is so funny. I would say that there is something like this going on with me and my husband.

Jenny said...

I totally love the dialogue here--wonderful. And the whole mess of self-perceptions versus what others perceive. I can not imagine having the patience to create such a chart, but I'm sure one day Ana could, but she would probably spend three days working on it.