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Half of a Joke

Yesterday I had lunch with my dear friend, Peter. He characteristically started to tell me something, then decided he’d save it for later. One thing I’ve learned about Peter is that “later” in that context rarely ever happens.

I’ve known Peter since 1986, when he became the insurance buyer at a company I handled the insurance for, and despite my exit from that industry years ago, we remain in contact. Not only have we done business together for at least 15 years, we’ve gone through his transition to ownership of his company, my leaving commercial insurance after 22 years, life stages of our growing children, etc. Peter is very private, stoic and grew up as a strong Minnesota farm boy with several brothers. Not overly emotive is an understatement.

Being a talker, writer and story teller myself, one thing that gets me crazy is when only part of a story is told and it really has no ending. Peter often had the wonderful habit of starting to tell me something, then saying, “Aw, never mind” before he would conclude. His smirking didn’t help. I was continuously left hanging. It was no different than being told a joke without the point or the punch line. Good grief! Something similar to when my English teacher would bust me on sentences with a “dangling participle”. Come on!

What do you think I got “trained” to do after several years of listening to a first part of a story, joke, thought or opinion Peter was giving me? You’re right, like Pavlov’s dog, I trained myself into expecting that I wasn’t going to get the end of the story. It soon became like the “crying wolf” concept…I began not listening or giving the story much credence in the first place. With a brain like mine always on hyper-drive, I didn’t need more “stuff” up there bouncing around. For Pete’s sake, (no pun intended) I hardly remember full jokes, much less incomplete ones.

Peter’s need to express (being a rather guarded person) and my need to understand (wanting full disclosure) often set us up to be like ships in the night. It wasn’t until recent years in our friendship that I had a revelation to get over myself. All those many, many times that he was saying something of value (to him) and I was habitated (is that a word?) to miss, discount or ignore his half-stories, was truly a loss for both of us. It took this many years for Peter to express himself to me in the way that worked for him. I missed that in his world, the act of expression (despite my need for “complete expression”) was of value to him.

Coincidentally, another friend and I were talking about this concept and he recently posted an article called Nail the Sale, Seal the Deal which talks about the “Compulsion for Closure”. You can find the full article at www.grayfoxpartners.wordpress.com. Conceptually, most highly successful people have a drive to complete things.

Leaving conversations, tasks, arguments, stories, follow-ups, projects and the like incomplete causes brain static. The little voices in our heads (no, you are not immune) start to accumulate all kinds of “I should finish this, I need to get back to him on that, I have to get research more, this has dragged on so long that I’m losing sight of the point of it all, I didn’t apologize yet, etc." Whew! Our brains are similar to listening to an AM radio station in a thunderstorm!

Here’s a thought for you. Take a moment to write down nine things in your life that are open-ended right now. Make them things you can complete in less than one hour. Starting today and for the following eight consecutive days (no skipping days, it’s a feng shui thing), finish and cross of one of your items each day. After nine days, I promise some of the static will subside. Heck, you might not only get rid of the storm, you could tune into a clear FM station in your head!

Now I need to remember one of Peter’s half jokes so I can call him for another punch line…

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