Thursday, 26 January 2012

You just don't know...

Communication. Talking. Saying what you feel, what you mean. Being honest. Seriously, why are we so bloody crap at it?  I write this agony aunt column every month for Natural Health magazine (yeah, yeah, don’t laugh) and really, I could answer pretty well every dilemma in one word:  TALK!  Spit it out. Say what you’re feeling.  

Don’t be mean: say what you mean. 

Cos most people aren’t psychic.  They won’t intuit what you feel.  They won’t hear the words unspoken. You have to bite the bullet and say it. Not in an aggressive ‘you total manky bitch’ or ‘you ignorant fecking bastard’ way – but in a straightforward, honest ‘this is how I feel’ way.  Simple huh?

So why don’t we? 

I guess sometimes it’s because of fear.  If you know someone will act with anger or aggression, that’s good reason to keep schtum.  But then, I wonder, should you really be around someone who reacts that way in the first place?  Sometimes, maybe, you don’t want to ask the question because, in your heart of hearts, you’re scared of the answer.  Or you’re scared of looking and sounding foolish, of making an arse of yourself. 

And some people, of course, use silence and lack of communication as a kind of power game. 

But really, all of it drives me crazy.  So much misunderstanding. So much time, so many opportunities, lost through lack of words. So much hurt and pain sometimes.  Through lack of truth and honesty. 

The mind, left to its imaginings, can be an inventive beast. It can come up with all kinds of scenarios; all sorts of hurt and paranoia.  And thought is creative.  How we think can affect how we feel.  Magicians would go one step further and say that how we think can affect matter – because, really, it’s all just different forms of energy.  So we should be careful with our words, with our thoughts, with what is said and what is thought.  With what is unsaid.  Can something be unthought though?  No.  Only pushed away or buried or – better - replaced with something new.

Anyhow. Let’s be honest (ho ho), I’m not always great at the communication stuff myself.  I’m not one of life’s great splurgers.  Generally I don’t talk a whole load, truth to tell. I love silence. And silence loves me. And, yes, sometimes there can be too many words banded about. I once spent a car journey pondering the maths on how much Adrian speaks in comparison to me – I think it was a ratio of 750:1 or thereabouts.  I’m a good listener though – most journalists are. I guess it's balance again - a question of knowing when to speak and when to shut the feck up.  

Last night there was a deep and not remotely comfortable silence in the house.  Adrian and James weren’t talking.  Again.  Ye gods.  To be fair, Adrian is pretty good at expressing how he feels.  And he will readily admit if he’s done wrong.  But James is a tougher nut to crack. He’s a Scorpio, one of life’s natural silent brooding types.  I’m determined that, if I can teach James one thing, just one thing (after the self-esteem thingy of course), it will be to communicate; to be honest about how he feels.  To state his feelings clearly, openly, without losing the plot.  Yes, that will sometimes bring him heartache, of course it will, but it will also save him heartache in the long term.  So, after a suitable period elapsed (cos everyone needs to wallow for a bit), I followed him, cornered him in his lair and made him look me in the eye and talk.  And eventually he did.  And instead of launching off into ‘And he said this…’ or ‘And it’s so unfair…’ he talked about how he felt.  He spat it all out and felt – he said - much the better for it. 

As the old adage goes, better out than in.  

So, today, maybe…try being honest. Say what you feel.  Is there an elephant in the room?  Name it. Something you’ve wanted to get off your chest for aeons? Shift it. Can’t say it? Write it. Put it in a letter and sign it with a kiss (or knot).  Because, really, life can be too short for miscommunication, misunderstanding.  Yet another person I know died this week (no, no, please no commiserations – I didn’t know him well – the husband of a friend).  She heard his key in the door but he never came in.  When she went to see what had happened, she found him dead on the doorstep.  You never know how long anybody has got.  Use your time wisely eh? 

23 comments:

Sally said...

Oh, this is a tough one for me.

What I would say is that if you're not blessed with natural tact then speaking out often hurts people as often as helps them. Keeping quiet is sometimes an attempt to be kind - because these things pass and I'll probably get over this worry or slight or frustration in less time than it would take you to forget what I might say about it, kinda thing - you know what I mean?

Tyson said...

This is a wonderful blog post, Jane. Really, it is. I have always been a very honest person, but you have to be able to know HOW to be honest. It isn't all about spitting out your feelings and shrugging your shoulders and saying deal with it.

It's really about articulating yourself in an open and non-threatening manner.

The key to constructive and healthy communication is being able to put what you feel into words without making the other person, people, feel put down or put out. You also must be willing to hear what they say in return and not get your back up.

Difficult. But communication is the key to life.

Right after love, of course.

Tattie Weasle said...

I think the nubis communicate but be honest about it too; I joined a family that never say what tye mean and it is difficult. My family says everything all the tiem mena stuff nice stuff annoying stuff but we always talk - possibly too much for some!

Jobo Pooks said...

I'd rather live on, in regret of something that I didn't say or do, than at the time, conform to someone else’s idea of how I should act or what I should say.

I lost a friend, Christmas 2010, and have regrets about certain things, but I am in gratitude now for that time in my being exactly who I was instead of what others said I should be. Why? Because it served to bring me to this place of now, enjoying the gifts created out of it and because of it. xxx

Exmoorjane said...

@Sally - Yup, sometimes that's true. I'm not advocating brutal honesty at all costs all the time, no sirree.. just that so many 'issues' in relationships seem to arise through poor communication.

@Tee - Yup, precisely...but then you could usually write my posts for me. :)

@Tattie - Family 'secrets' are a bugbear of mine... the whole 'bury it deep so we don't have to think about it' shit. What's repressed has to come out in other ways, I feel.

@Jobo - That's something else entirely and no, I'm not suggesting one should be untrue to oneself in order to please the other person. That is equally dishonest. As always there is a fine line... :)

Jobo Pooks said...

"You never know how long anybody has got. Use your time wisely eh?"
...................

It was in response to this.

Exmoorjane said...

@Jobo - yes, I assumed it was. :)

Everything czyli wszystko said...

I wish it were that simple. Too many of my feelings have no verbal representations whatsoever in any of the languages I know.

Exmoorjane said...

@Everything - That's a very fair point. Sometimes (often) language (no matter which) falls woefully short.

Ann Foweraker said...

Hi Jane, I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award – Check out my post http://annfoweraker.com/2012/oh-my-oh-my-versatile-blogger-award/ to see the award and read some instructions that go along with it.

Rob-bear said...

As my son puts it, "Say what you mean; mean what you say."

And, yes, some people cannot handle a particular truth at a particular time. Best be cautious, which is different from selling yourself out.

Great post, Jane!

And yes, words are terrible for communication, but they are all we have.

Mummy Whisperer said...

Those scorpios are really tricky - they make it so difficult for themselves and others! I should know being married to one. If you succeed with your son, your future daughter in law is going to LOVE you!

Bab's said...

I agree communication is the answer and by that I mean talking and listening. I can do both but sometimes I say when it's more appropriate to listen. My OH finds it easier to not say which hikes up frustration sometimes. Intuition is great is but it's based on your own experience so it can be faulty. There really is no substitute for saying how you feel but in a way that can be heard

Irish Eyes said...

It's all about timing isn't it? Taking the time to listen and to know when to go after someone and gently and tactfully get them to tell you what sort of elephant it is in their room.

Sometimes it is better to wait a few hours or days before broaching a subject that has caused dissension; passions will have hopefully cooled off, and by bringing the subject up in an abstract sort of way, it can help people to open up. My favourite was always "...and I was just thinking/wondering, what do YOU think about...". It has worked. An English friend of mine calls it a soft Irish way of getting people to open up. I don't know how Irish it is, but it has worked. I'm a good listener, and life has taught me enough lessons to be able to emphathise with people.

I have faced my own demons over the years and have them nicely cornered and minimised to where they can be kicked out of the way if they decide to rear up at me.

Here at home when the girls have something on their mind, be it worry, grievience or need to tease out something to inform their approach to whatever "it" is, the kettle goes on, the tea is poured and we "sort it out". Eldest in UK has taken to ringing home on a Saturday morning for a "weekly review". It is something that has become deeply satisfying to both of us; a new dimension in our lives. We have a new set of different view points and touching base with each other helps to quantify things. Youngest still reaches for the tea pot. Tact and good listening skills are the best foundation, and when it is something YOU want to say, talk it out at your own time and comfortable pace to a well trusted listener. Lovely blog Jane. Straight to the point.

Jobo Pooks said...

We too have an open house in my family. Verbal abuse, sarcasm and banter are all alive and well.....as is the self-worth that makes it all totally acceptable.

Others in the world should try this type of allowance in total freedom of speech; and then, maybe, we can stop a few more lawyers and judges getting richer.xx

Jobo Pooks said...

PS: and also prevent us slipping into a world wherein the law dictates exactly what we can and cannot say....

Black people are jumping on the race card bandwagon and driving the wedge between race, colour and creed even deeper so that segregation lives on.

Jobo Pooks said...

I say, allow total freedom of speech and decriminalise all drugs.

See, that won't happen because of The Common Purpose.

"UK laws are selective, not only by those very laws, but by the corrupt who manage them."
(Jobo Pooks)

Exmoorjane said...

You alright, Jobo? :) xx

elizabethm said...

Ah this one has resonance. I am trying to talk about it and it is hard, very hard. Everything has it right. Some things are close to unsayable and then what should we do?

Fennie said...

What good advice - but can I offer my own take on one of the reasons people don't talk? Sometimes ones own thoughts are fluid; truth is multifaceted - on the one hand, on the other hand. It is difficult to express two contrasting opinions at the same time and be taken seriously. Most issues and not black or white but shades of grey - what is the balance of advantage? As you can see, I am having difficulty putting what I want to say into words. In other words to talk.

Jobo Pooks said...

Is this struggling with words a common thing amongst long-horned cattle then?

Ashen said...

That's an image that keeps returning.

http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/an-image-keeps-returning-%E2%80%A6/

Frankie said...

love the elephant photo.

All my life I have been one of those people that just says what they mean. It's not all that it's cracked up to be. I think there's something to be said for being able to not say things if you can do it without them festering inside. (I can't.)

There are a lot of things people don't want to hear. Not just negative things about themselves, but things that disturb their picture of who they imagine you are. It's easier to imagine someone is the person you think they are when they don't talk.