Tag Archives: communication

Are You Talking to Me?

17 Sep

When you call a business, do you sometimes continue to carry on side conversations after dialing the business?

If so, did you know that the person at the other end of the line can hear you clearly…and sometimes hear the others too? Especially when you are shouting?

This week at work, I answered a call with my usual professional greeting, and immediately the caller shouted, “Grab your underwear and put some lotion on!”

Then she began speaking to me as if nothing had happened.

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Different

29 Dec

I have been reflecting on the fundamental differences between different people and what happens when we make the mistake of thinking everyone is the same — or that they should be.

I am an introvert. Some people do not know what this means, although nearly half the population is introverted. We don’t call attention to ourselves as extroverts do. A book called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  gave me much to think about.

I was still thinking about the book when I watched a film called The King’s Speech. In the film, two sons of a king are both unsuited for the throne they stand to inherit. One is unable to sacrifice his personal desires for the sake of social rules. The other is uncomfortable with public speaking, due to an unfortunate lifelong stuttering problem.

As I watched the streaming film, my internet connection became repeatedly interrupted so that I could watch only a few moments at a time. The screen had a stutter of its own. This affected my viewing of the film, but added, I think, another dimension to it. I felt that I had an additional understanding of the frustration of the family and friends of the title character, listening to his fractured communication, as I watched the fractured film. The idea of being a king or queen would thrill some but horrify others. I fall in the latter category, in case you can’t guess.

A friend of mine wrote something about the harmful nature of “unsolicited advice“, which is another way of saying “telling others how to live their lives”. I responded that I think unsolicited advice often comes from those who believe others will benefit in the exact same ways from whatever worked for them. If a woman has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of pregnancy and parenthood, she may think that every woman should become a mother. If she has achieved much wealth and personal satisfaction from working in the financial sector, she may think everyone should apply for such employment. Well intentioned advice, perhaps, but thoughtless, unhelpful, and self-centered.

Should we all live the same life, hold the same job, raise our children the same way? I do not believe so. Do we all have the same inclinations, abilities, and traits? Of course not.

I like the title of the book Quiet because this is a term that has often been used to describe me. “You’re so quiet.

The term is accurate, and yet it is used almost exclusively by strangers. Anyone who knows me feels no need to describe me this pointless and impolite way. It would be like commenting on my obvious physical characteristics. Imagine someone who has known you for years saying, “Your hair is so brown!” or, “Your feet are so small today!”

Those who do not know me, unless they are quiet themselves, often see my quietness as a reflection of my mood or my response to them. Am I depressed? Am I bored? Do I distrust them?  They do not consider that quietness is simply a part of my innate character. They certainly are not complimenting me, with the exception of one or two men from foreign countries in which quietness is a more desirable trait than it is in this culture.

We are all different.

Some are loud, some are quiet. Some constantly seek more in life, while others are content with whatever they have. Some are anxious, some are calm. Some are leaders, some are followers. Some are big, some are small. Some are dark, some are pale. Some make jokes, others are serious.

We all contribute something different to the world.

The Truth of Memory

16 Jul

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.

~Maya Angelou

This is such a deep truth.

Whether we feel joyful, inspired, manipulated, bored, angry, loved, disgusted, or wounded… we remember.

Why did that person make you smile so much? It may be hard to say, but you want to see that person again, don’t you?

What was that fight about? You aren’t sure, but you are not looking forward to talking to that person.

I have been thinking about communication recently and I believe that this quote is the simplest, clearest guideline I have ever read regarding interpersonal communication.

Sometimes I fail in this area.

When I was young, I was very quiet. As I aged and gained experience, I decided to sacrifice some of my caution and privacy and become more open and more casual in my interactions.

Sometimes I think I need some of my caution back, not only to protect myself but to protect others.

I may say the right words with the right intent and still fail to interact in satisfactory way. My timing may have been off. My tone of voice may have been wrong.

By the way, although I am writing about my own social weaknesses, this post was not inspired by my own failures but by someone else’s failure… someone made me feel unimportant . I know it was not intentional, and I know it is not actually true, and yet…there is the feeling in my memory.

I want to create positive emotional memories in others. I am challenging myself to remember Maya Angelou’s words and use them to improve my relationships and first impressions.

Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable

23 Apr

After reading a thought provoking blog post from Backstage Spotlight, called “Be Yourself, But Don’t Disagree with Me” regarding that elusive balance of honest expression and conversational harmony, I was inspired to extend the topic in my own way.

My idea is that you should Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable.  I honestly don’t care if you disagree with me or not, just be tactful and make some sense, for pity’s sake!

Last night I had a conversation with one of my kids that made me want to bang my head against a wall.

I saw a game controller tipped at the edge of the counter, like a car with one wheel over a cliff, and when I alerted him to the problem, the conversation went something like this…

That controller looks like it’s going to fall.

No, it didn’t.

What?

No, it didn’t.

I didn’t say that it did, I said it looked like it was going to.

Yeah, I know.

What?

What?

I don’t understand.

It didn’t fall.

(Pause) I heard you.  I am saying that I don’t understand, because your response didn’t make sense.

Yes, it did.  I said it didn’t fall.

No, what I mean is that I was talking about the future, but you were talking about the past, so it didn’t make sense.

What you just said doesn’t make sense.

Umm…I was…  The future and the past are different.

I know.

~~~

He will be in middle school next year.  Teachers, consider yourself warned!

Seriously, I want my kids to be themselves, and to feel comfortable talking to me — I want everyone to feel that way.  The tricky part is that I want the same in return.

We all have different interests and perspectives and personalities.  We have different opinions, too.  For example, Backstage Spotlight used an example conversation about The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but I don’t have very strong feelings about those movies, so I am going to use The Sound of Music for my own examples.  I have seen that film more times than I have seen any other film.

You don’t have to agree with me.  You don’t need to like The Sound of Music just because I do.  Go ahead, express yourself.  Just be reasonable and polite about it — and, please, get your verbs straight.

If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say that you don’t like musicals, I understand your opinion.  If you say it is an endlessly boring and stupid movie, well, then I understand that you are rude, but hey, at least you are honest.

If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say that you like it too, then you are probably a woman.  If you say that you like doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles, then I know that you have probably seen the film as many times as I have.

If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say “No, it didn’t“, then I understand that you and my kid should get together and play video games, because neither one of you makes any sense.

One of the biggest arguments I have ever had with anyone started up after I spent time gushing about a college class I was really enjoying at the time, and about all that I was learning from the class.  The person to whom I was speaking responded (essentially) by giving the opinion that classes similar to the one I spoke about were worthless, stupid, and a waste of time.

Now, this was, I thought, a clear and personal insult, given the fact that I had just expressed my enthusiasm for the class.  I took offense.

I would submit that a better response would have been something like, “I wouldn’t be interested in a class like that.  I  just don’t think I would get anything out of it.  I would rather take a class about —–.”  To me, that is still an honest response, just a more polite one; it is a response that supports communication instead of ending it.

In any case, I think we can be ourselves and have our own opinions and still get along.  All we need to do is to be tactful and reasonable, and know the difference between past and future verb tenses.

(with thanks to Backstage Spotlight for the inspiration!)

On the Subject of Simple Communication

17 Mar

Is communication ever simple?

When we communicate with our fellow humans, so many things can go wrong.  We may say too much or too little.  We may use the wrong tone of voice or make incorrect assumptions about the listener.  We may thoughtlessly spread casual gossip.  We may unintentionally hurt, offend, confuse, mislead, deceive, interrupt, baffle, insult, ignore, irritate, or simply bore our audience.  When it comes to blogging and social media, mindful communication becomes even more of a concern.

I came across this verse in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, and I think it speaks for itself in any century.

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
~Your loving mother, C. L. Ingalls, De Smet, November 15th, 1881

Even in the days of covered wagons, communication was complicated and had to be handled with care.

While considering the complexity and perils of modern communication, I discovered some other interesting advice. (The quotations below are from thinkexist.com)

Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.  ~John Kotter

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.  ~ Anthony Robbins

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.  ~Anthony Robbins

I especially like the Anthony Robbins quote about communication and differences in perception, because I find that some people respond poorly to my verbal communication style, which is more straight forward than my writing style.  I believe that honesty is the simplest policy, in most cases.  Much fuss has been made about the differences in communication styles between men and women, but I find as much difficulty – if not more – between the communication styles of different generations and different cultures, and also with a number of individuals who plainly do not share my direct approach.

When have you had trouble communicating because of differences in communication style?

Have you attributed the difficulty to sex, age, culture, or individual perspectives?

Hand-brain Coordination

1 Aug

I gesture when I talk.  Unfortunately, I also gesture when I think.

My hands flail around unconsciously in quiet moments.  My husband gives me strange looks.  What was that?, he asks.  Usually, I have no idea what he means, and I try to convince myself I have missed some small sound or event.  Maybe a bug just flew too close to his face.

But I can’t deny it any longer.  I have caught myself  “thought-gesturing” more frequently.  Sometimes it happens while I’m driving alone.  Last week, at a traffic light, a pedestrian passing in front of my car became confused by my gestures and stopped walking, wearing a concerned expression.

I don’t know what my unintentional hand movements may signify to strangers.  I’m really hoping I don’t set off some kind of road rage by briefly making eye contact with another driver while simultaneously– and inexplicably– flopping my wrist, or flicking a finger or thumb.

If you happen to see a woman moving her hands around for no apparent reason, don’t worry, she’s probably just thinking really hard.