Saturday, January 19, 2008

Miss Communication

Have you ever had the experience where you say something completely innocuous (or so you think) and it is taken out of context and someone winds up with hurt feelings, and you are standing there saying "but, but, but...." That's something that happened to me this week, with someone I dearly love, and it left me feeling bruised and anxious and sad. And feeling completely inept at communication.

I work with kids that don't perceive and process information neuro-typically, and my experience this week made me feel great empathy for them. They often say and do things that piss people off, and they don't mean to and can't really help it. Some of them don't have much language (if any), so telling someone to "back up", or "stop", or "I like you" is harder than it is for you and I. I think about that every day, and do my best to find ways for them to say what they need to say, because, damn, that is so important. To be able to just get it across.

And yet, even though I have the ability to do just that - I have the language and the voice - sometimes my thoughts don't line up in neat rows and what I say comes out wrong, or worse, I'm afraid to say something and wind up torturing myself with the "what if's". Things I need to say, but can't; or live in fear of saying because I might hurt someone's feelings or damage a friendship.

It might be difficult to imagine me NOT saying something, as I do tend to have a talent for TMI. But I have such a difficult time addressing things that need to be addressed. I'll process the crap out of things, and leave them unsaid, and I wish I could be braver. After all, these aren't issues that have any huge stakes: my marriage is not in jeopardy, my child is not in danger, I'm not running afoul of the law.

I'm just afraid to say things sometimes. And that pisses me off about myself.


Crazy Lady said...

I hear ya. I was ironically a comms major in college....who'd a thunk?

Lolabola said...

oh yes, this happens to me almost every day. The saying of innocuous things that aren't innocuous. (also sometimes the non-saying of things, but that is harder to admit)

Anonymous said...

Good Lord, welcome to my life.

My problem is that I am NOT afraid (usually) of saying exactly what I mean and meaning what I say, but I think we live in a culture that does not promote that. We are supposed to be nice and sweet and complimentary all the time - otherwise we are being bitchy and snarky.

Most of the time (I won't lie and say all the time) I sincerely do not mean to hurt anyone's feelings - I just think, mistakenly, that if someone asks me a question or comes to me for advice or whatever, that they want my true opinion. I do try to withold my opinion unless asked for it (something that took me 10 years of pissing people off to learn) unless it's my blog, and then it's all fair game if you click on it.

So, most people in my circle end up calling me "brutally honest" or say that they are a bit "afraid of me" ... and I have accepted that, because I am who I am, and if you decide to hang around with me, well, I'm going to assume that you like and accept me that way. And know that my heart is good, even if I inadvertently come off as caustic or critical.

But's hard when people don't realize intentions.

suttonhoo said...

oh sweetie -- my heart goes out to you -- I'm reeling from a similar recent misstep with someone I love very much -- the damage I created without even trying takes my breath away -- those are the kinds of stumbles that only forgiveness and a willingness to love one other can repair.

hope your dear one showers you with some of both.

I, Rodius said...

I've done that, and probably will again. But email's even worse. I fire off some smartass comment that I mean as a joke and end up really hurting or angering somebody. It's hard living among other humans; we all rub each the wrong way sooner or later. I'm sorry it happened to you!

Stutopian said...

I already told you what I think about this, but allow me to expand.

It's true that we accept a great burden of communication on behalf our our students; we attempt to fill the gaps until they can be taught to fill them for themselves. I think that it's inevitable that you will say or do something that will affect someone negatively; not out of malice, or even ignorance, but simply because over time I think the onus of communication causes us to think differently while we're in "work mode". How many times have you found yourself wondering about the behavior of mainstream students, simply because it's far from whatever norm we might experience in our classes? I use the word norm advisedly here.

At the end of the day, you own what you do and say. That should be enough for most adults with any measure of self-possession. Of course, this attitude gets me into trouble, mostly because I have little patience with people who choose to spend any significant portion of their lives nursing real or imagined grievances. For those people, I like to do this:

Hold your pinky with the tip of your thumb, the other three fingers together (like the Boy Scout salute), then tell them to read between the lines.