Parts of Me: unlearning old communication habits
There’s this saying to the effect of if we don’t learn a lesson the first time, we’re doomed to repeat it until we do. For those of us who are stubborn as mountain goats, sometimes it seems like that’s exemplified times a million. Almost to the point that it will begin to feel like a never-ending cycle of fuckshit until it clicks that it is US who is more of the problem, not everyone else.
My round and round lesson that sticks out the most was accepting that how I choose to communicate with people does sometimes push them away. It doesn’t matter what my intended effect is, how people receive what I have to say DOES matter. Is it ALWAYS on me? No. There have been times where someone was taking something personally and there was nothing to be done other than to step away from the situation and to let flared tempers, die down. Other times, it WAS me, that tinge of nonchalance in my voice or body language that indicated I could care less about everything they were saying. I was always listening but sometimes, it was with the hope that they would hurry up and finish so I could move on to more important things.
When I started adding more value to what the other person in the conversation was saying, by offering up more than one word answers or grunts, I started getting different responses. When a conversation got heated and I refrained from telling someone how they felt (based on my perception), I got different results. There were things I was saying and doing while communicating to those who engage better with different communication, that I wasn’t even acknowledging. Lots of times, people would say nothing, thinking it wasn’t worth their time to go in circles about their thoughts and feelings because they didn’t feel I would understand. Things would just fizzle between us and my take was usually, “Ok. Bye”. It freed up time that I didn’t want to spend being touchy feely (see: vulnerable) anyway.
As I sought to have better relationships with my friends, I had no choice but to alter my approach because we’re not carbon copies of one another. Granted, if I didn’t want to change anything about how I communicated, I could have just moved on and made new friends. Which was usually what happened. Since I’ve never had a shortage of friends, I never felt a need to adapt to another human beings needs. My needs and wants would always come first because I had somehow attached that to “loving myself” before I love others.
It’s an asshole move. There’s room to take others into consideration and not be a self-centered prick.
Again, I owe it to The Bug & Hubbs for triggering this change because unlike the people in the past that I easily detached from when I felt they were being too sensitive, melodramatic, whiny, and anything else that I could attribute to our problematic communication, I’ve never wanted to detach from them. It made me reconsider the current relationships I had and just how much effort I was putting into them to assist in their effectiveness. I was giving just enough to continue to say “that’s my friend”…and my friends (at the time) were doing the exact same thing.
I couldn’t just walk away from The Bug’s seemingly incessant whining and her crying. She was a baby in need of affection, attention, and love. There was no asking politely from her or sitting down and expressing her feelings. I had to figure it out and fast because infants wants tend to be immediate needs. As adults, we’re often called needy when we say affection, love, and attention are things we desire in our relationships. Which is odd because that’s what we’re supposed to give to anyone we’re in a relationship with, romantic/platonic or friend. Those things are part of any shared human experience that involves being intimate. When we don’t get enough of those things, as children, from the people we love, it resurfaces in ways we could never predict, as adults. For me, it was my detachment and communication. I wanted better for this tiny human I brought into the world. I loved her father and he didn’t get enough of those things as a child either so the size of our pink elephant began to grow burdensome. Our communication suffered just like it did with my friends.
It wasn’t solely them or I who was the problem. It was US. I had surrounded myself with people who weren’t too adamant about helping me fix my fucked up communication because theirs wasn’t on par either. It was something I didn’t realize until I attempted to change how I handled anything that required some level of confrontation about my feelings. It became my close friends stating that maybe I was being too sensitive or making something out of nothing. I never needed anyone to validate my feelings but I began to see how it felt to have what I was feeling, invalidated. Everything I brought up that required a mutual level of vulnerability, made them uncomfortable. Even had a friend tell me that I was “getting too soft”.
So even now, as I painfully observe people who communicate like I regularly used to, I know they will eventually learn or be doomed to repeat this lesson. It isn’t something that I’ve perfected and I do have moments of regression. However, regressing happens less and less as I state my emotional boundaries as clearly as I state my physical ones…. and as I change who I associate with. There are some people who’ve admitted that they have issues with vulnerability, intimacy, and acknowledging others feelings because they rarely even want to acknowledge their own. I don’t expect them to change so some of us have gone our separate ways and other relationships? They’re hanging on by a thread…
What I’ve accepted from this lesson is that we aren’t in each others lives to constantly validate (or invalidate) one anothers thoughts or feelings. We’re free to think and feel as we please and these things should be valid to us without anyone’s agreement. Our relationships come together for us to learn, be respectful of differences and fully acknowledge our humanity. Effective communication makes this a hell of a lot easier.
Refusal to learn this lesson doesn’t help any of us in the end.