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Have you ever been in a conversation where it had suddenly taken a turn into a completely different direction and not been able to understand why? I want to tell you about how this happened to me one day and what I learned from it.
It was a day conference for teachers with an equality remit. I had been asked to run the opening and closing plenum sessions. We had come to the end of the day and I had just asked the participants to share their ideas about the way forward and what we should do next.
After a few minutes, I decided to see if an example would help. So I told them that, when I had been thinking about what I wanted to happen next, I had thought of the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Equality Exchange networks. I had thought what a good idea they were and wanted us to be able to go away, having laid the foundations of a support network for primary teachers who were working to develop equality attitudes in their schools.
“What’s the Equality Exchange?”
“What’s an Equality network?”
“We can’t talk about a network for us, unless we know about the Equality Exchange.” came flying back at me.
I was astounded. How could they be concentrating like that on what was irrelevant and ignoring the important point in what I had said? ‘They’re Overdetailing.’ I thought. ‘Why should they suddenly start to Overdetail like this?’ … ‘Of course, you clot, you invited them to, by talking about what was irrelevant, instead of concentrating on what you wanted.’
So I came to understand that the ways I think, and express my thinking, can have a profound effect on the ways the rest of the people in my group will think. I can carry people with me, or send them off on a wild goose chase, by keeping my thinking clear, or letting it get confused and woolly.
I was already very interested in the concept in Transactional Analysis (TA) of Discounting. Now I had a spur to take it seriously, to pay careful attention to m
y own Discounting and how it affected my relationships.
I thought you might find some of these ideas useful. In this post, I’m going to define and explain Discounting and tell you how I went about learning how to use the concept. In each of my next 9 posts, I’ll talk about one of the main Discounting concepts.
Discounting is a process by which we suppress our real feelings, ignore our real thinking, or do something we would rather not, instead of being ourselves. In effect, we are kidding ourselves, as well as those around us. We’ve probably been doing it all our lives, so we don’t even realise what we are doing.
Another way you can think about it is that you are under, or over valuing yourself, someone else, or the situation. You’ve probably seen people being falsely modest. You may even have learned to do it yourself. The problem is that, if you are good at a task and, in response to a compement, you disclaim that your work was good, you and undervaluing yourself and your work. You are beliitling the people whose work is better than yours, and damning those whose work is inferior to yours
Some people complain about the odd use of the word ‘Discounting’ when, in commercial terms, it means to reduce the price in exchange for a quantity order, accepting a reduced service, or to get rid of surplus stock at the end of the season. Yet the process is similar.
If you offer something for sale at a price, then say that you will take off 25% should I buy fifty or more, then you have given an unrealistic price to start with.
Discount warehouses can sell their goods at a lower rate because they attract customers who set a low value on shopping in pleasant surroundings and being served by knowledgeable staff. Some businesses set their prices excessively high, in order to appear generous in lowering them at the time of sale.
The TA concept describes a process by which people give an unrealistic value to themselves, or others, to their own feelings and abilities and their capacity to handles their own life. We learned to do these things in childhood, in order to please our parents and other parental figures – sometimes elder siblings, teachers, priests, et cetera. So each of us will have preferred Discounts, though we are all likely to do all of them at least part of the time.
How I got to grips with the concept
When I first started working on this aspect of my thinking, I had difficulty, because there are so many ways of Discounting I tried to take them all into account at the same time (and this must have been a serious Discount), and kept realising, when looking back on a conversation, that I’d missed something important. So I started to take account of one at a time. For a week, I listened for the Gallows Laugh and practised ways of challenging it gently in others. Sometimes I’d ask why the person laughed, when the matter was so serious. If I caught myself laughing at a ‘not funny’, I’d say “I’m sorry I laughed, that’s not funny.”
One time, a visiting tradesman, having told me about the state of his overdraft, said
“Oh, it’ll sort itself out eventually, Ha, Ha!”
Not really knowing how to deal with that one, I said “Well… they may sometimes sort themselves out on their own.” and left it at that.
Some weeks later, he returned to another painting job, and said that this comment had started him thinking and he’d realised that, of course, it couldn’t sort itself out on its own. He had now started to work effectively on his financial problem.
If you start to pay attention to other people’s Discounting, you will be surprised how quickly you will become aware of doing it yourself.
After a week, I moved on to listening for Blocking Transactions and working on these. There was nothing systematic in my choice of the sort of Discount to work on next. I chose whichever one seemed most interesting at the time or, maybe, one that I had noticed being used and so had become interested in that one.
Now I find that I notice all of them – probably not all the ones that pass in front of me – all the different types! I find that being aware of Discounting is particularly useful in training sessions and when I’m working with individual clients, because it gives me a way of inviting them to clear their own thinking and take responsibility for their own reality, without necessarily having to explore their feelings.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the Gallows laugh, so that you don’t have to wait too long to find out what it is. In the mentime, if you are in a divorce process and would like support and direct contact with me, tap on this link for your invitation to join my divorce support community.