Quid pro quo not


Dedicated to C

I’ve been thinking about Graham Long’s statement about not being met, and also about quid pro quo.

Yesterday I was on the phone to a new friend and had the experience of not being met. I was whingeing about something and nothing, and she pulled me up. She told me it was a quick call only, she had things to do, and so on. She didn’t ignore what I was complaining about. She said a few words about it, and then moved on.

Straightaway, I went into a sulk, felt flattened, got narky with her; in short, I was totally disempowered. We ended the call a few minutes later.

Afterwards, I thought about what had happened. I could see it had nothing to do with her and that it was something very familiar to me, something I’d experienced many times in my life. As I was looking, I saw the thought I’d had at one point in the conversation,

You should listen to me whinge because I’ve listened to you go on and on about your issues for hours …

“Ahhh, yes”, I thought.

Later in the day, I got the other part of it. I was on the phone to another friend, a friend who once complained that she always had to talk first in our conversations, and suddenly I saw what I do. I collect brownie points with my friends! Credit points in listening that I feel I should be able to redeem at any time!

When I’m having a conversation with my friends, at some level I’m thinking, “If I listen to her, then when I start speaking she will remember that and not interrupt me when I start speaking …” I also saw the whole stinking structure is built on the fear that I will not be heard, that I will be cut off.

Wow! What a piece of work!

As soon as I saw that, it all fell away. I saw I can just be responsible for being heard and not being cut off.  If someone cuts me off, I can say it doesn’t work for me and request we speak at another time when he or she can listen. I can also say upfront in the conversation what I want.

Living life from the principle of quid pro quo sucks. What sucks even more is not being aware one is doing it.


Image: Edison’s anti-gravity underwear from Punch, 1879, courtesy of The Science Book Store

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8 thoughts on “Quid pro quo not

  1. Another point of self-discovery. I think it depends upon who You are talking to. Sometimes after I hang up, I wonder why I was running off in the mouth for so long. Not whining, but just blabbing. With some friends whom I know to dislike telephones, I say what I have to say and then say goodbye. I have a couple of friends who I know do not know how to end a conversation! I try to have Dr. Advice answer all calls, and I don’t have to deal with it!


  2. Fascinating…often, I’ve been on the receiving end of people whining and complaining, either in person or on the phone, and felt that it was my job as a “good” friend (or family member) to listen. Took me many years to see how draining that was for me. Now I realize it’s better for all to be up front about the expected length of the call. I agree that ‘quid pro quo’ sucks, but sometimes when I don’t feel I’m being seen/heard my inner bean counter starts up again.


    • Hi Ilona. I love your phrase, “inner bean counter”.

      Western civilisation is based on the principle of quid pro quo. We all have it, and it is source of our unhappiness. I was telling a friend about my discovery and she nailed it, “Ah, OK, then you never expect something to be freely given …”

      Happily, it loses its power when it’s disclosed as what it is.


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