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The Need for Completion of


Explanations > Needs > Completion

What is it? | Completion in stories | So what?


Does the above title bother you? Did you ask 'Completion of what?' Things which are incomplete bother us, whether they are sentences or things we are doing.

What is it?

When things are complete, they are done and in the past and we do not need to think about them again. When they incomplete, 

 Something which is incomplete is not certain and leaves us unsatisfied and seeking to resolve the incompletion by completing what has been left undone.

Completion leads to a sense of closure, where we feel the comfort of such as a job well done or an argument satisfactorily finished.

Rehearsal exhaustion

One of the effects of incompletion is that we constantly have to go back and think about all the incomplete things we know about, to make sure we do not forget it and to predict possible outcomes.  As more and more things are left incomplete, we get more and more distracted and exhausted by the ever-increasing rehearsal. 

The rule of three

If someone starts something then leaves it incomplete and then starts something else, and then repeats this again and again, how many such nested incompletions can we stand? In practice, problems seem to set in around about three incomplete things.

This appears in a wide range of places. For example, section numbering in manuals may go to 1, 1.2 and 1.2.3, but seldom goes down to a fourth or lower level with section numbers such as Technical writers know that such detail is too much for most people to handle. (Government specification, however are a different matter).

Self fulfilment

Self-actualization is the drive to complete ourselves, to make our identity whole, to eliminate any sense of loss and lack of completion. This can be difficult when we have deep-rooted sense of loss from such as not transitioning through development stages or through the loss of loved ones.

Completing the self can be a lifetime's task which many do not finish.

Completion in stories

Writer of soap-operas and other instalment-based entertainment know much about completion. All stories can be viewed as nothing but a series of tension-creating incomplete scenarios, followed by satisfying completion, tying up the loose ends and giving a sense of control and that all is now well in the world.

Consider what an incomplete story forces us to do:

  • In order to be able to make sense of the rest of the story, when it appears, we have to keep going back and mentally rehearsing the story, to keep in in mind.

  • In wondering what will happen, we start predicting possible conclusions. And the more possible endings, the greater the confusion and mental effort again to rehearse these.

  • It sends us mentally inside, paying attention to our inner world. This is the beginnings of trance (as is the repetition of rehearsal).

So what?

Incomplete stories and situations leave people wanting more. If you leave them open, then they will also be more open to your persuasive arguments.

So start telling them something, then break off and tell them something else. Do this several times. Then slip in the real request or suggestion that you want to make. They will be so confused they will accept it often without question. 

See also

Closure principle, Consistency principle, Zeigarnik effect

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