This set me wondering afterwards how far this was in general true of my interaction with Metal, and I decided that it was. I then looked at my interactions with all Metal people, and found that as a general rule it is as though Metal needs to wait to hear what I have to say before entering the conversation. I interpret this as a sign that Metal wants to assess the quality of what I am saying before deciding whether and how to take part in a dialogue with me.
I have now gone on to look at where my interactions with Metal might differ from those with patients of the other elements. The most obvious difference here is in the case of Fire, because, unlike Metal, it is generally unhappy with the kind of silence Metal feels at home with. A Fire patient is likely to be the one to start talking even as they come into the practice room, although, being a Fire practitioner myself, the chances are that they will have to be very quick of tongue to outpace my own need to speak to them!
Earth, too, is one of the elements most consistently engaged in speech, a sign of its need to make the listener understand what is going on for them. Conversations with Earth patients may sometimes be more in the nature of a monologue than a dialogue unless the practitioner steers the talk carefully. Wood may also need no prompting to talk if it has something it needs to say, and wants to make sure the practitioner is listening to what they are being told. Again, here, speech can descend into a monologue if the practitioner loses control.
Finally, my verbal interactions with Water patients always seem to have a very distinctive character of their own, which makes of them not so much a dialogue where one person talks, then listens whilst the other person talks, but a conversation where both talk at the same time in a kind of concerted murmur. It is as though the sound of the words, rather than the meaning of the words, is more important, offering the kind of reassurance that Water is not alone which it craves in order to still its fear.
Of course, all these observations are based on the fact that my own reaction to everybody I come into contact with will be strongly coloured by my own Fire element. In trying to look at their own experiences with patients, each practitioner must therefore take into account how far their own guardian element shapes the way they interact with their patients and their patients interact with them.
I am now determined to watch myself more closely to see whether my own talking in the practice room is an appropriate response to the needs of my patient rather than an inappropriate response to my own needs.