When a person is trying to steer our conversation in a certain direction by their specific pointed words, I sense the interpersonal pull. I chose to pause and listen to the Spirit before responding or letting the person direct the conversation. This particular conversation was with a gentleman who is going through cancer treatment. He wanted to draw me in or perhaps destroy me, so he stated that he wasn’t religious but he did pray. I felt he was trying to appease me, so I paused and listened, and just waited for him to keep talking. I believe that showing there was no shock factor or engagement on my part, may have given him a safe ground.
Interpersonal pull in a conversation can happen when someone looks upon you to provide help or get them out of their trouble. If not clear about the situation, we so easily fall into the trap of projecting ourselves into their situations. It may lead to what my emotion at the time, my own need and desire. We may try to escape, cover up our own issues, the result may be offensive to the other and disappointment for ourselves and burnout. I recall when a sister came to me talking about issues with her marriage and wanted me to give her a quick answer on what to do, I started sharing with her some of my struggles and she did not like the answers. That became an onetime chat and even though I tried to follow up with her later, she did not want to talk about her marriage anymore.
You can feel a pull if someone is trying to pull you into their camp, to get you on their side. When you resist it, sometimes they get angry, or want to pull away from you, or try to manipulate in some other way. I am counseling a woman, and I do empathize with many of the struggles she’s having. But at times, I’ve felt a “pull” to side with her on an issue, but when I present the truth about a distortion she has with the thinking, she seems taken aback. However, I think it’s good that she knows that I will listen, care, and direct, but I won’t just follow her lead if it’s not leading to truth or to God.
When in conversation, a person may be gruff toward me or even angry and I might be intimidated to pull away. It would feel a little like standing up to the plate batting in a ball game and not back away when the pitcher throws a curveball intended to make me back away from the plate.
I have a friend who is nice as pie to me and tells me I’m wonderful while they complain about their spouse. I tend to be pulled into believing that my friend has no responsibility for the relationship problems.
An example where I gave in to interpersonal pull is while working with a woman who has strong influences of addition in her family (at least 3 members of her family have died from it and three others are using drugs and alcohol. She has strong financial needs and will call me names and make accusations or try to get me angry. If I react to these, and occasionally I have, it does not serve her or me well, and then she has something to use against me. By God’s grace she recently told me that the times I have been calm have influenced her and she has thought to herself, what would Karen say or do? This is good but could influence me to take the glory instead of God getting the credit. I will fall short at times and my hope is as I told her, it is not what I would say or do, but closer to What would Jesus do? Even that is not what is needed, but what would Jesus do in me and through me? will meet the needs and get at the solutions better than human wisdom.
The conversation was steered towards pulling me to join their camp – a kind of support of their ideology or theology.
I simply listened. Kept my cool. At appropriate time of the exchange, “enlarge” the perspective/vision ~ stirring a thirst in the person to bigger plan of God that they may want to join in. There was no deliberate attempt to unmask the person, but resisted the pull through returning to first principle.
Interpersonal pull is when they are either really nice or complementing to get you to like them or the opposite. I had a student tell me how much my words meant to her and that she appreciated me checking on her. I didn’t realize the depth of the interpersonal pull. I just kind of brush it off or dismiss it or say something like, I appreciate them. I need to say that God directed me and I’m not sure if what I will say is what they always want to hear, but that I’m trying to honor God and respect the journey that they are on. I most give into my sister, because I do not want her to feel alone.