October 25, 2019
We might assume that letting people know what we want and how we feel is relatively easy. We, surely, just open our mouths and say it. But human life shows extraordinary troubles around communicating our intentions and emotions clearly and honestly. This is some of what we get up to as an alternative to straight forward communication. We say nothing but somehow expect to be understood anyway, and blame the person for not reading our minds. We don’t get something off our chest, we go in for people pleasing behavior but secretly we build up hatred and resentment. We pretend we don’t care. We become avoidant and tough. We say things are okay and they’re not okay at all. We explode dramatically rather than explain calmly, the explosion often being the result of a past burial of the problem that then gives way to eruption of resentment. We nag bitterly. We give up even trying to explain and get interested in trying to order, impose, and control instead. There’s so much that we should be talking about: what we want in bed, how hurt we are by certain things our friends and family do, usually inadvertently, how badly we need a cuddle, but don’t want to look weak by asking, or, how we want to pay rise or promotion, or a shift to another role we feel sure we’d do very well. Non-communication starts early. It’s almost always the result of a certain sort of childhood in which we were not allowed to get things off our chest in a direct and sincere way. Perhaps we had an angry parent, around whom we had to walk on eggshells, we had to be so careful with what we said or a terrified explosion could be unleashed at any point. Maybe we had a prudish parent; it broke their heart every time we were a bit rough or unhygenic no wonder we find it hard to be frank about our body and its desires and needs. Or maybe we had a very fragile parent, whom we loved, but were always afraid of bringing problems to in case they couldn’t take it or broke down. Or perhaps the parent was too preoccupied and busy; our concerns were nothing next to the challenges they had with the corner chop, the doctor’s surgery, or the business. Bad communication has its roots in the feeling that “we can’t be both truthful and tolerated and loved”; “who you are isn’t enough.” Once we get more conscious of how reluctant we are to communicate directly, we may be able to start to take action. By understanding our past we can see that the present may not in fact require the compromises around communication we once had to accept as children. Without quite noticing it, we may be sticking to the very unfortunate habit that was formed, understandably, to deal with problems that actually belonged to another past era. We can afford to be bolder; we’re stronger now and others are stronger than we might imagine. Most people can actually take some stiff news, and if they really can’t, we can walk away. Put yourself in the shoes of those you’re afraid of. Is it really so nice to be lied to or not told what matters? People need to know the bad news to fix it. We can endure the risk of being disliked in the name of a cleansing confrontation. We should go through mental exercises to practice an inner resilience around communication. “I may be sacked, but I can find another job.” “They may not like me here, but there’ll be other places where I can find friends.” “What I feel is not always bad or strange, it deserves to be heard!” We have to tell ourselves helpful, important things that we fail to hear from others sufficiently loudly early on: “you’re going to be okay, whatever happens next;” “I will love you even if the news is challenging.” Enough of stalking the Earth with our shoulders hunched and our eyes wary. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We can afford to say what we really feel to those who deserve to hear it.