I like balance by nature. So when something seems imbalanced, my tendency is to fill in what’s missing. I’m getting better at it. I used to be considered contrary. Now I’m considered complementary. Or at least when I do it well.
A brilliant friend asked for input on a SlideShare. It was informative but not particularly engaging. I reworked it in a way that was highly engaging. My version was intended to highlight an engagement tone, not to show him what a balance would be. Rather than add engagement to his writing, I went to the other side of the polarity. My intention was to give him an alternative to marry to his version.
The last three sentences are the meta-message about my input. A meta-message provides context so people know how to take your words. I didn’t want him to think I was suggesting my version as a final one.
A meta-message also helps you understand where you’re coming from. I wasn’t always conscious of my tendency to fill in what’s missing. I’d doubt myself and wonder if I really was contrary. I didn’t know how to use that trait effectively. When I create my meta-message, I become more consious of my communication options.
People like to put people in boxes. We all do it. Your meta-message guides people to put you in a bigger box than they might reflexively. That gives you more room to operate, and that’s a good thing.