The Art of Communication: A Messy Work in Progress

Say what you mean and mean what you say, or maybe just keep your mouth and keyboard shut. That is what I have learned this week.

The meaning of words can often be misunderstood because of the gap between giver and receiver.  Sometimes we forget who are audience is, especially when we can’t see them in front of us.  Words can be hurtful, spiteful, manipulative, half-truths, educational, loving, insightful, and everything in-between.

I have a love-hate relationship with words.

This morning I woke up and opened my Facebook, and the first thing I saw was a post from one of my children with the words “Good! Kill those Mother Fuckers!”

I am not so keen on swear words or killing people.  Yet, his words paled in comparison to the shock of finding out the night before that my daughter was going to be baptized into the LDS Church this month.  I didn’t even know that she was interested in joining the LDS Church until this month.  Not even a week to brace myself after learning about the LDS Church, and their new policy to disallow membership for children of gay parents.  I had just been telling a friend there should be public policy created for ALL children of religious parents protecting them from baptism, and here I was changing my own law to include preventing adults from being baptized.

My daughter, and our conversation, went from several jokes back and forth to acceptance.  We realized  that in the end; we are both going to do what we want, so we might as well love each other in spite of our differences.

same bird

Earlier in the day, I had read a threatening e-mail, and watched a video full of lies about me from former polygamist husband #2.  The experience was a mixture of being slightly entertained by watching an actor perform, worrying about malicious intent and terroristic threats, and wondering how much I could win in a law-suit for slander.

To say the least, there have been many mixed emotions within the last 24 hours, and that is where my artwork at the top of this blog post entitled “Words” fits in.  It was created from pieces of earbuds that I found.  During the creation process of bending down on all fours, working with unruly wires, I was reflecting on the theories of B.F. Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov.  These scientists were behaviorists who claimed behavior was a result of negative and positive conditioning (not whisperings or promptings from the Holy Ghost, or Satan; real live human-beings conditioning through the use of actions or words).

This is what happened.

A couple nights ago, my family walked through the front door after a nice evening together.  I immediately noticed two different earphones, with wires completely ripped apart, it was like viewing severed body parts in a double homicide. Panicking, I told my youngest daughter, “Oh no, Misty got them again!”

I quickly hid the electrical appendages behind the television screen before my boyfriend saw them.  This was not the first time our cat had destroyed John’s earphones.  It started out very innocent with a young kitten chasing a string, which gradually resulted in every pair of earphones that were not put away to eventually be destroyed.  (As a mother, it made perfect sense).  Trying to re-train Misty by using feathers, instead of strings, didn’t work because of the prior conditioning.  In fact, if anything, we probably trained her to start chasing birds.  Besides the expense of buying new headphones, I also noticed my boyfriend’s anger escalating with each new chewed pair of ear buds, and gnawed cell phone cord.  So, I wasn’t certain how to deal with the situation.

Since 2007, I have had a boyfriend that has told me to say whatever is on my mind, and so I do.  It has been very therapeutic to be able to speak freely, and for him not to be offended.  Of course, in the public world, it is a different audience, so I use a slightly different communication style.  The not sharing the truth is what made the chewed ear buds situation so uncomfortable.  I didn’t tell him what happened because I feared he would threaten getting rid of our cat, and then I would have to get rid of him.

The worst part about this scenario is that my daughter watched me being intimidated by my boyfriend.  Why else would I hide the strings of air buds, besides waiting until better timing (which I did, the next day after he had a good night’s sleep and a cup of coffee).  I was concerned that there would be some sort of confrontation, and negative repercussion.

The next day, I opened my purse and pulled out all the wires—his only words were: “Those aren’t mine.”

Sometimes I make words become bigger than life.  I don’t recall my boyfriend and I ever expressing anger towards each other.  Yet, similar to Misty, my past experiences often intersect with the present, and I am easily affected by them.

For example, every time I see a white paper pinned to my door the first thing that pops into my mind is a “Three day Quit!”  Whenever I walk into the Dollar Store, especially during the holidays, it reminds me of a panicked time trying to stretch dollars for my children.  There are certain e-mail addresses that bring with them a sign of doom.

I can change some of my negative perceptions and behavior by creating positive ones.  Sometimes this means staying clear of negative situations altogether — delete buttons, trash, junk, unsubscribe.

Leaving negativity

Personally, I get along better with people who talk straight, and who don’t have hidden agendas.  I can’t stand being around control-freaks.  There are some people that are purposely unclear because their words, or lack of words, can be a form of manipulation. Often religious leaders, business people, public-relations persons, and advertising companies use the strategy of withholding information to close their sale.  Sometimes personal conversations go this route.

IMG_2783 (6)

Recently on a plane trip the lady in D23 said, “Ah-um, you might not be aware of it, but the open window shade is causing a glare.”

I really didn’t understand what she was saying.  I figured it was probably her way of saying, “Shut the window blind.”

“I can close it,” I said, half-way asking.

As I closed the rectangular window shade, I thought, “Why wasn’t I more direct?  Why did I use the same rhetoric?”

I could have easily been more explicit by asking her what she wanted, and I probably would have felt better about myself, if I had asked in a robotic voice, “Do. you. want. the. window shade. shut?”

What made this situation uncomfortable was the lull in conversation, the mixed messages, and the irritated “da” expression on the woman’s face.  I wasn’t aware that the open window shade was causing a glare because it wasn’t causing a glare for me.  (Our eyes are different, our perception is different, and it is impossible to read a person’s mind.)

So, here I am this week, like every week, perplexed with words realizing that communication is an important part of life, and there is no way around it.  Talking to my animals is not good enough.  Even if we are dead, words live on, and if we don’t tell our story, someone else will.  By the time it has passed on from person to person, it is no longer an authentic history, it is just hearsay.

 

 

 

4 Responses to The Art of Communication: A Messy Work in Progress

  1. Harry Dschaak says:

    I understand your words perfectly. So why is that? Your ability to describe the path you’ve taken to get to the one your on is above average. Most people can’t convey their thoughts in writing beyond a simple (fleeting) facebook post, let alone attempt to operate a blog. I can relate to your bewilderment as pertaining to the news that anyone would ever want to join the LDS Church, but I forget how cool it seems when compared to having no promises. At the same time I thought your attitude about being slandered by a former significant other was empowering, especially since I know the guy well. I’ve decided that he is a waste of time and space, (as are his adherents), but I have to keep the tab open on that front in case I’m ever summoned to testify. If that day ever comes, then we’ll see how well my own ability to communicate is.

    Words are like power tools, they are intended to make everyday life easier, it just so happens that they don’t always work.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Harry. I always appreciate your comments. This is a work in process.

      I believe it is so important to share our experiences, and the other side, as you have done with the http://www.chrisnemelka.com site. It really is an act of courage and selflessness to spend the time you do educating others. You are not trying to recruit or enlist people, or take their money. You have nothing to gain. You are right it is a matter of the right audience finding you, and not worrying about others. For those few people, it will have been worth it. If individuals do not use this new age of enlightenment through the Internet, it’s on them. At least you are there. (I know how busy you are!) Testifying if needed, is imperative. Count me in too!

  2. Pam says:

    Thank you Vickie! Your work is inspiring to me!

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