10 February 2009

Everybody's talkin' at me

I have spent most of my life not being very good at communication. I either say too much or too little or make assumptions or put my foot in it.

I don't know if it the phase I'm in or what, but every single day I learn something about communicating that I did not know before. When I look at my family background, my role models, is it any surprise that I feel like I am catching up at my late age?

My mom clams up if she feels she has been misunderstood. She goes into Silent Pout mode and retreats with tears in her eyes.

My dad? Also not much of a talker. He loves to tell stories but isn't big on the interpersonal touchy-feely stuff. Or the details. Here's last night's sample conversation:

Here. Turn off the TV.
(Hands me the remote. I don't think twice about this since he is blind and often forgets which buttons go to what. He is perpetually turning the sound up to SIREN LEVEL when he means to change the channel. I try pushing the button about 20 times. Nothing happens.)
Sb: I think this remote needs a new battery.
Dad: We put a new battery in today.
Sb: Maybe it is in wrong.
Mom: We looked at the little picture.
Sb: Let me see.
I take the remote to the kitchen to find something to pop the little lid off with.
Mom: Turn on some light!
Dad: What?
Mom: Turn on the light, she can't see!
Dad: A light?
Sb: It's ok
Mom: I don't know why she went to the kitchen.
Sb: I needed to get something to get the battery lid off with.
Dad: The light is right over there.
Sb: The batteries seem fine. Was it working when you put new batteries in?
Dad: No

OK then. Let us stop there. Would that not have been valuable information for me to know when he first handed me the remote? Can you see how differently the incident would have proceeded had he just said, "Hey, the remote doesn't seem to be working, can you take a look at it?" rather than "Turn off the TV"?

Every day I have to remind myself that many other people see more communication as comforting, not as "bothering" as I have grown up thinking. They LIKE knowing the details. They like being kept in the loop.

Next conversation, immediately following the remote control problem:
Dad: So you're taking me to the doctor tomorrow?
Sb: Doctor? Tomorrow? You don't have an appointment tomorrow.
Dad: Yes, at 4:15
Sb: No, that was last week.
Dad: No, I just made this appointment today because we didn't have anyone to take us this morning.

Ok, here we go again. How about "I made a last-minute doctor's appointment today for tomorrow. Can you take me?"But no. It is just "So you're taking me to the doctor tomorrow?" Sigh.

And no one had ever mentioned the appt he cancelled because he didn't have a ride, so I never offered to take him.

Learning. Every day I'm learning. By the time I'm 80, I might be good at this.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like Laura's knothole. You know the one where we get pulled thru backwards.

ptooie said...

Your dad is like the polar opposite of my mother-in-law. She tells us everything, in minute detail, a minimum of 3 times. And ignores what we tell her until about the 4th time.
So long as I started out in a pleasant mood, I think your father's version of conversation would be a fun challenge... in small doses.

meno said...

You may get good at it, but your parents never will.

That was the rule growing up in my family too, "Let no communication be direct."

Piece of Work said...

I am the same way! I'm always assuming something is understood or worse, smiling and nodding when I don't really understand what someone else is telling me to do, instead of asking a question. But just this year I've started working pretty closely with someone who communicates the way I do (i.e., not very well) and it's soooo difficult! ANd annying! I tell myself I'm learning from her how to do better but I'm not sure I actually am. Old habits die hard.

Amie Adams said...

Doesn't sound like you're the one with the communication problem.

I'm impressed you haven't lost your mind.

flutter said...

this sounds EXACTLY like my dad!

Project Christopher said...

I don't know if your Dad has been blind for life, but if he wasn't, was he an engineer? He sounds like my stepfather.

super des said...

If you learn to read *anybody's* minds, it should be your parents'.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this mirrors the conversations I have with people at work to a T. Is it so hard to quickly reply to a request with, "I don't have time to address this today but I will look into it next week," or something similar, rather than going silent for months leaving everyone wondering what you're doing? It seems like such a basic way to deflect the nagging to me!

Lynnea said...

Wait, people talk? Where can I find some?

Heh. I agree with you about the learning seems to be increasing with age. I look back and see how stupid (not that you ever were. and only stupid in a naive sense) I was when I thought I knew everything.

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