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Mature Communication

I have failed to learn how to communicate in an “adult” fashion.

I believe the word they use is “assertiveness”, I lack “assertiveness”.

Instead I rely on passive/aggressive communication modes, or allow my anger to communicate for me.

Neither method is particular effective.

Direct honest communication – that’s the ticket – or at least that’s what I’m told.

But what kind of heartless S.O.B. must you be if you can look into the eyes of people you care about and tell them things that might even have a slim possibility of hurting them.

The counter to the “pain avoidance” argument is that humans require pain for learning. Without pain no one has the incentive to change. Of course pain doesn’t even begin to ensure change, and even if change results you can never be sure the results were what you wanted. The changes could be positive or negative from any number of viewpoints.

The change could be positive for you and negative for them; e.g. they give you the last slice of pizza.

Or negative for you, but positive for them; e.g. they dump your ass.

Or negative for both of you; e.g. they begin abusing drugs to avoid the pain inflicted.

So is change good or bad? Neither, it’ just change – but bringing about change is always a risk.

That sounds a lot like the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument.

While I’m an ardent supporter of gun rights, that particular argument has always stuck me as specious.

I mean seriously, inanimate objects never DO anything!

Back to the problem of communication.

Even in seemingly routine communication you can’t be sure the message you meant to send is the message received.

He said “The dress is too tight”, she heard “You’re ass is fat”.

What he meant was “I love the curves on your body, but that dress is flattening all those gorgeous curves.”

She said “I have a headache”, He heard “You’re crap in bed and I don’t love you enough to put up with it”. What she meant was “My sinuses have been killing me all day and it feels like someone shoved knitting needles in my eyes.”

So why don’t people say what they mean?

Because being mindful of how what you say will be received is a cognitively intensive process, and because no matter how mindful you are of both the delivery and possible interpretation of your message, it can still be misinterpreted by the receiver.

Even worse, you can say what you mean, the other person can perfectly understand what you mean, and not care.

Of all possible interpretations – to me – this is the most painful. When what you have to say is discarded as irrelevant, unimportant, or not acknowledged at all. (ooh, rather like this blog…)

“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.” – Homer Simpson

Having attempted mindful assertive communications, and having had them not work (ok, fail spectacularly), I’m inclined to resort to the communications modes I learned before age 5.

After all they seemed to work.

Although I’m not quite sure how to throw a temper tantrum in an e-mail…

“You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” – Homer Simpson