Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I've been applying for jobs recently, as I've mentioned over the past few months, and every one has a different version of the question "describe your skills in oral and written communication."  Truth be told, oral communication has always been one of my weaknesses, including on performance evaluations.  And I'm not terribly confident in my oral communication.  Part of it, I think, is that in some areas I skip over details that I don't realize aren't obvious to other people.  Part of it might be (perhaps related to the first bit) that in my formative years, people didn't like it when I talked too much, so I learned to pull back.  Part of it is that I'm better at trees than forests, so when I'm speaking I lose the big picture.  But on job applications I can't say all this!  So I pull a few examples of things I've done and just pretend that I'm good at it.

In real life, however, I can't pretend so much!  One of the reasons that Sabrina tells me to be quiet so much is that I tend to over-explain.  "You need to hold my hand while we walk to the playground because I don't know you well enough yet to know that you won't run into the street, and this is a busy street and I don't want you to get hurt."  (That warranted a "Stop Talking!"  I also now know that she is super-good about holding hands in public.  When we went to the zoo I told her the rules were she had to stay where I could see her and come to me if I called her name.  She barely loosened her grasp on my hand once.)  I'm really looking forward to my Chanukah present from my sister for this very reason.  I asked her for my very own copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  I borrowed it from the library and had to return it; one of the techniques in the book is about using fewer words.  I'll be glad to have a resource right in front of me if I need to change tactics.

My not-so-great oral communication has been a problem in relationships, too.  This is less because I say too much, or because I skip over details, and more because I don't know how to expose myself emotionally.  This is one of the things I really wanted to work on in therapy, though I figured the act of therapy would be the working on it.  And it was, while I was still going.  I'm definitely better at it now, though I still start everything I say with a disclaimer.  ("I want you to know before I say anything that I know there is a possibility that I'm wrong.")  But it takes practice, and I still need a lot.  Writing--such as this blog--is a good first step because I practice formulating the vulnerable thoughts and putting them in words for other people to see.  But there's a veil between the words and the audience, so it is easier to put in writing than it is to say the exact same words.  (Plus there's that whole processing issue--you have more time to process what you want to say when you're writing.)  

Anyway, why am I talking about communication and relationships? (Yes, Foster Ima, why are you talking about this?) I was just interrupted by a phone call and now I don't remember where I was going.  (Funny thing--the friend who called told me "you should really blog about your experiences."  Yeah, she doesn't know about this.)  Ah yes.  With my ex-boyfriend (singular, not "one of my ex-boyfriends," because he's the only one I dated long enough to feel that he warranted the title of boyfriend), we didn't really communicate on a deep level.  I was suffering from depression and though we dated for ten months, he never knew.  Not because he wasn't perceptive (maybe a little of that?) but because I did all I could to hide  it.  I probably even used him to hide from it myself.  He told me at Chanukah time that he loved me (he told me in writing) and I just never responded.  I never told him that it completely Freaked. Me. Out., I never told him that I loved him, just... nothing.  We dated about 5 months longer than we really should have, based on my recollection of when I realized that studying together and cuddling were substituting for a real relationship, but I was too hesitant to say anything.  

Now George is in my life (hi George!) and since he lives far far away, our entire relationship--whatever it is and wherever it is going--is based on communication.  We talk on the phone a lot, though now that Sabrina is in my life, our conversations keep being cut short--because she comes into my room when she is supposed to be asleep, or because her social worker calls while I'm on the phone with him, or because he calls while I'm driving somewhere with her... But while I think we are both trying to get to the point of having deeper conversations, we're not there yet.  He noticed last night while reading about himself here that I've spoken more forwardly about my feelings towards/about him here than I have with him.  It's a balancing act that I haven't figured out yet.*  There are other barriers to deeper conversations than just my fear of saying too much and seeming like I'm skipping ahead those eight steps or saying the "wrong" thing and appearing too needy or just saying... I don't know what.  There's the fact that a lot of our conversations happen when we're both really tired (are we ever NOT really tired?) and that I hate hate hate talking on the phone.  I have to work too hard to process what is being said--and cell phones just make it worse--so 1. I miss important things but don't realize it, and 2. I'm thinking too hard about the words to then add the thoughtfulness that is needed to ask meaningful follow ups or add my own insights.  So going back to something I wrote above, I do much better in writing.  In the old days, courtships involved letters, but somehow a relationship based on emails, even deeply personal emails, seems impersonal.  (Then add in that George uses primarily his work email, and only checks his personal email once a day--really! how is that possible?  I'd go crazy--and clearly email isn't the way to go.)  

I'm not sure what the answer is, though I know the answer is NOT to use this blog to express my deepest innermost relationship thoughts to the world, knowing that George might then read them!  (See the footnote below.)  But I'm looking forward to figuring it out.  

*While I've been writing this, I've been wondering if it might be most appropriate--though "appropriate" is a more sterile word than is correct here--to send this post to him before opening it for the world to see.  Since really this whole post is in response to that bit of our conversation last night, and in that regard he is the intended audience, not all of you, my adoring fans.  I'm not going to, but not due to a lack of trying.  My computer is being difficult and it's just more trouble than it's worth--where the outcome would be throwing the computer out the window--to try to fight it.  

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