Does this scenario resonate with you? You have identified a problem with your roommate, partner, friend, or family member and you decide to call it out.
Regardless of how you start-up the conversation, soft or direct approach, the topic gets discarded and somehow you are now discussing something you’ve recently done to them or a pattern of things you’ve always been doing but they don’t say anything about it
Now, the conversation has been diverted and you're on the defense. You try to refocus the conversation back to the original topic but a flood of other stuff has found it’s way into the conversation and most likely a stream of emotions have followed as well.
In those moments, do you find yourself wondering….What was the original call out? Was it that big of a deal? Why did I do this? Or forget about it, this is not worth it…
All the while, your original intent was about asking if your roommate, partner, friend, or family member would stop speaking over you and let you finish your sentence.
Before you could get out that request, they were doing the exact thing. Speaking over you and they flooded the conversation with a number of things you’ve been doing or always done to them.
This scenario is an example of a common challenge for many when attempting to honor their own want or needs, set boundaries, or simply ask for an accommodation by someone else.
Often, in conversations, when a topic is brought up around a situation or pattern of behavior one party may get defensive, argumentative, or combative towards the other. It’s never enjoyable to hear from someone about a less than desirable behavior.
Therefore, a common first instinct is to go on the defensive thanks to our instinctual default. Our nervous system is intended to scan and alert us when a potential or actual problem is approaching. Defend, attack, or flee to survive.
While someone’s request or feedback is not a life threatening event. Our nervous system doesn’t care. Its job is to alert us to threats.
In our modern world, unsolicited feedback, is a threat. Furthermore, less than expected feedback is a threat. Taken even further, any feedback has the potential to be a threat.
Therefore, each of us has become wired and can become triggered to respond to these threats in different ways.
While some may shut down or run when the threat of feedback is present. Others, fight back by being defensive and countering with a flood of thoughts and comments.
Which highlights problem leakage.
Problem leakage occurs when a conversation is intended to focus on one topic and then quickly becomes flooded with a number of other topics.
Like water from a broken pipe - the spillover will find its way into all the cracks, under the door ways, and all the openings it can reach. No way to stop the stream once it begins. If the leakage is
really bad, it becomes a flood.
Which often requires additional work to stop the leakage and triage the on going damage before the original problem can be addressed.
Addressing relationship problems is tricky. Therefore learning how to minimize problem leakage is vital.
Building a practice addressing the topic at hand, being solution focused, installing bookends around each opportunity, and having a placeholder to discuss other topics separately can help to patch up the
potential for problem leakage.