Archive for the 'communication' Category


clean slate

clean slateHow does disrespecting someone build a relationship?

This was a question I was asking myself as I listened to someone tell a roomful of people that they don’t know anything about what they do.  For me, I immediately shut down, realizing that even if I should speak or try to have a discourse with them, they would not hear me.  The irony was that the purpose of the meeting was to learn about how to collaborate and build good working relationships.

Once I recognized that they just needed to feel like they had a voice and needed to be heard (not necessarily by me, but by what/who I represented-a wound from their past), I was able to let go and be silent.  However, does that give them the right to immediately through me into the same category as the other negative experiences they had?  And also disrespect me without even taking the time to get to know me?

All of this brings me back to the simple desire for us to be understood and empathize with one another.  Our world would be a much better place if we could all see things from more than one perspective.  How do we do this?  Listen.  But also share with respect and patience.  However, there are also times when one needs to be noisy and act with immediacy; this too needs to be done with respect and specificity.  Once we start throwing around generalities at a large majority, we will most likely not be heard.

So how can we share our wounds in a respectful way which does not negatively impact new and potential relationships?  How can we start each relationship with a clean slate?  We need to figure this out because our future depends on it.


just deal with it

just deal with it“That’s life.  Just deal with it.”

Don’t you want to just smack someone in the face when they say that?  You’re sharing a deep and troubling issue and they throw that line out at you and it feels like someone is stabbing you in the gut.  “Just deal with it.”  Really?  Do they have a sympathetic bone in their body?  Or are they just trying to toughen you up?  Either way, it’s really evasive and belittling.

Unfortunately, I heard this two times over the past couple of weeks.  I poured my soul out, sharing my woes about the past year’s struggles which seemed to happen one after another and that’s the reply I received.  “Okay,” I said.  “That may be life, but for most people stuff like this happens over a ten year period or more and mine was condensed into a little over one year.”  This still elicited little to no response.  And then I realized it.  They themselves couldn’t deal with it, so they threw it back on me.

As I reflected on the lives of those that reacted this way, I found a vast differences between them but one consistency; avoidance.  The first person really hadn’t experienced a whole lot of loss or struggle in their lives because they kept themselves at just enough distance from others so that they could quietly back away at any sign of trouble.  Meanwhile, the second person had had their fair share of difficulties and loss, but wouldn’t dare admit its effects on them.  For both, what hardships they faced they merely avoided dealing with it.  Which makes their statement all the more ironic.

Life is not something to “deal” with.  It’s not something to avoid.  It’s something to live and experience.  Good or bad, it’s part of who we are and what makes us human.  And I believe we live it better when we do it together.  So the next time someone punches me in the gut with that phrase, I think I’ll say, “I don’t want to just deal with it.  I want to live it and I hope you’ll take the journey with me.”


strength of diversity

strength of diversityFamilies.  It’s amazing how within one family exists so much diversity.

Genetics may make us all look similar, but many times our life experiences and ways of thinking can be totally different; even within one family.  This can bring conflict or growth.  We can challenge one another while still loving each other.

Too many times we get caught up trying to make others see things from our point of view.  For years my husband and I tried to change each other.  Opposites attract; this is true for my husband and me.  My husband is extremely logical while I am very emotionally driven.  A counselor once used a story to illustrate our differences and also affirm the value of our perspectives.  He asked us to imagine that we are driving and come upon an accident that just happened.  Because of how we each view the world, my husband would immediately stop traffic and call 911.  On the other hand, I would be attending to the people in the car and sympathizing and comforting the victims.  Both actions are important; one sees the big picture, looking at the accident from the outside while the other hones in on the details, putting themselves in the place of the victims.  This lesson allowed us to appreciate our differences and see it as a strength rather than something which separates us.

Now we know that communicating and sharing our perspective, no matter how dissimilar, helps each of us to grow.  The key is to be open and listen.  It can be difficult to talk about certain things with anyone, let alone family.  But when we can have the respect and love for one another to share our thoughts and feelings about anything, we may find that though we may not agree, we can see things from a different perspective, learn more about each other and appreciate our diversity.

Diversity can draw us together if we let it.


public stories

2014-03-02 19.20.53Had a little look inside another world today – that of a tattoo artist.

We, self-included, tend to have certain ideas about people who participate in certain kinds of behavior.  Someone with a lot of tattoos maybe judged as extreme, “badass,” criminal or tough.  However, the reality is something totally different.  Why does this specific form of artistic and self-expression get a bad rap?

For the artist I met today, the art of the tattoo saved his life and has made him an entrepreneur.  Not too shabby for someone stereotyped as a hoodlum.  Having one’s art displayed on the human form, living, walking and breathing is a beautiful opportunity.  It combines science and nature.  One’s imagination becomes reality on their bodies.

I’ve never considered having a tattoo before, but after this behind the scenes experience, I will seriously consider it and admire those who both practice the art and appreciate it.  Many do not consider tattooing an art.  Some believe it is a desecration of the body.  And to others, it expresses a rebellious and dangerous spirit which people tend to fear or avoid.

People get tattoos for many different reasons.  In some cases it’s just for fun or on a dare.  For others it is a very personal expression or way to remember an event or person.  Many appreciate the artistry and connect to this form of self-expression.  So how can we judge someone based on what’s on their skin?  With art, there is always a story being told.  And I admire those who choose to share their story in a very public way through a tattoo.  Tattoos invite a dialog and vulnerability.

We need better communication in a society struggling with real social connection.  So let’s encourage each other to share our stories through any and all art forms-even the negatively stereotyped tattoo.


trust without equality?

trust without equalityTrust.  Easy to earn, easy to lose.

I love people.  I love working with people.  But there is something about group projects that have always rubbed me the wrong way.  I’m not sure if professors realize that group projects do not reflect real life working environments.  Although there are definitely similar inequality dynamics in the “real world” as in the school room, there is not the same form of accountability.  So what usually happens?  One person does more work than another.

Case in point.  I started my first group project of the semester this week.  We assigned each person the task of submitting work to the professor each week by a certain time.  When that time rolled around and the group member had not yet sent the information, another group member texted me in fear.  “What should we do?  They haven’t posted yet!  How long should we wait?  Will we offend her?”

For the next three hours I communicated back and forth with each group member, trying to navigate diplomatic accountability.  As the countdown continued and the person still did not send the information, though they told me they would, the other group member and I conceded to step in and do the assignment ourselves.  We communicated this and only the next day did we hear from the other group member.

So we spent more time trying to trust someone and give them time to earn it, than simply doing the task ourselves.  How much time do we give someone to prove themselves?  Do we do it at the cost of the rest of the group’s evaluation?  Unfortunately, this group member totally lost everyone’s trust in the first week!  Right away we’re all on an uneven foot.  How do we proceed but to accommodate for her lack of reliability by doing more work ourselves?  How do we make it fair for us without risking our own grade?

Can one have equality without trust?


help, please?

help, pleaseIs it possible to share one’s needs without expecting them to be met?

It is such a tricky business finding the balance between proactively taking care of your own needs while meeting the needs of others.  Does one have to come before the other?  Can we help others before helping ourselves?  Don’t many religions tell us that we ought to put others first?  But how do we give from a source that has not been given to?  Or should we always be looking to others to fill that need?

I want and need to share my burdens with others; it is part of how I cope and deal with my feelings.  Others do things to avoid their feelings and that’s how they deal with them.  But when you are both dealing with the same feelings and they take all of your energy just to deal with it on your own, how do you reach out and help the other when there’s nothing much left to give?

Communication is always a key factor in relationships.  One cannot refute its importance and the fact that it is healthy to share one’s thoughts, emotions and plans.  But is timing everything when it comes to communication?  And what if there never seems to be a “good” time?  How do we control or manage our emotions when they cannot or should not be repressed?

Many times I’ve spilled my guts and it took away the joy of another.  I know I can’t help my feelings, but I can choose when to share them – or can I?  So when that happens, guilt and shame creep in, sending me messages like: “see, you shouldn’t share your feelings, it only makes others feel bad” or “you need to just learn to deal with things on your own and not need anyone.”  This is dangerous self-talk, I recognize that.  But when this tends to be a reoccurring pattern, one can’t help but question themselves and if they are having false expectations and unhealthy forms of expression.

All I know is that we cannot be responsible for the feelings of others or their responses to our feelings.  But when you feel that you are the cause of negative responses and feelings, you can’t help but have pangs of regret.  There is nothing weak or wrong with needing the support of others.  It’s just how we communicate it.  Any suggestions?


I’m not sorry

I'm not sorryDo you apologize too much?  Or do people tell you that you apologize too much?

Not too many years ago I had this problem.  I said I was sorry for everything; even my existence at times.  If something went wrong, whether I was responsible or not, I apologized for it.  When I expressed my feelings and they didn’t sit well with someone, I apologized.  There were not many things that I did, said, felt or even other’s shortcomings, for which I did not apologize.

Jump forward several years to this week.  Being the anal planner that I am, I have always obtained my school books ahead of time in order to get the best deals.  If the professor lists that a book is required, I obtain it.  This semester was not unlike any others in this case, so when my professor states three weeks into the course that they have another book that they are using instead of the listed required text which I had already purchased, I was not very pleased.

I felt that I had a right to give these feelings a voice, so I respectfully raised my hand and said, “Are we still going to use the other text because I already purchased it?”  A justified question which seems only logical considering the professor assigned the text.  Perhaps my tone came off a bit peevish for later that week a classmate mimicked my sentiments in the hallway when he saw me.  He said it was only a little mean sounding.  My instinct was to apologize to the professor.  Then I stopped myself.

Why should I apologize for my feelings which were very calmly expressed?  It wasn’t as if I threw a tantrum and disrupted class.  I responsibly shared my frustration and had the right to question the professor’s decision.  And I was upset so if it sounded like that, then the professor even better understood me.  Had I not made a big deal about it, they would not have made the effort or reconsidered their position.

When I thought about it, I no longer felt bad about giving my emotions a voice.  This was liberating because whether I choose to act on them or not, the important thing is that I recognize that I have the right to feel my feelings whatever they are and never have to apologize for them.  If this had been six or seven years ago I would have felt extremely guilty for even feeling frustrated let alone actually voicing it.  It took some time, but I’m finally learning to give worth to my thoughts and emotions, express them and not take responsibility for how others react to them.

I can finally honestly say (or not say), “I’m not sorry!”