Christmas, Communication and Notions Undone

Santa Claus with a little girl

Image via Wikipedia


Though I am aware that it is the day before the day before Christmas, this post is not about that.

Though it could be, because this is definitely the least-Christmassy I’ve ever felt. I don’t have any presents for anybody; I’m not expecting to get many presents and, most importantly, my mom and I will be spending our Christmas together while everyone else in the family gathers at my dad’s parent’s house.

I guess this is befitting in a way, since 2010 seems to have unofficially become The Year That Challenged My Notions About Everything In Life. Of course I would be spending this Christmas with few presents and fewer family members–those are the two things that Christmas brought to me; they’re the reasons I got excited about this time of year.

Now it’s December 23 and I’m sitting here surrounded by no cousins and no smells of food and no Christmas music and there no accusations of cheating at card games being flung about and no little kids are climbing up my legs and I’m not really sad about it, but it’s just kind of like…so then what’s Christmas?

But like I said,

This post isn’t about that.

In the same vein of All of My Notions About Everything Being Challenged, I have recently encountered a situation where I’ve had to deal head-on with the different communication styles of other people.

I don’t know how I managed to live my life so long without having this conversation (so to speak), but I have, to this point, pretty much always been around people who are direct in their communication styles.

On the playground, I found the kids who had absolutely no problem telling me they didn’t like the way I pronounced my “r”s in words like “refrigerator” (I swear to goodness, kids will freaking find anything to tease you about). As a teenager, I found the ones who unhesitatingly pointed out that though I drew a moustache on for opposite day (who remembers spirit week?), I definitely didn’t need to (tactful). Even in my work environments, I have, for some strange and charmed reason, found people who have been trustworthy and straight-talking (the workplace is  actually where I’ve found most of my best friends, a phenomenon that I am now being told is pretty rare).

Basically, by the way I was raised and the places I’ve lived, direct communication is considered a virtue. It gives you the opportunity to address problems head on, while they are still small, and devise strategies to fix them with little-to-no-damage to the relationships of the parties involved. You have an issue, you deal with it, you get over it. Bada bing, bada boom.

I guess one of the crazy things about life is the way we’re all raised to think of our “way” as the best (and/or only) way. My “way” of communication is the best (and/or only) way of communication, for example. But the thing is that there are billions of people on this planet, and nearly all of them are walking around thinking that their ways of being are the best (and/or only) ways of being. And so you run into these situations from time to time where there is no best (and/or only) way of handling things, there’s only the way you would have handled it and the way another person handles them.

You never realize as a child how often you are just not going to get your way in adult life. The longer I live, the more thoroughly I am convinced that ego is incredibly damaging to a person’s life and well-being. When you’re a kid, you think it’s normal to call a guy gay because he’s not interested in you, or to collectively point out other people’s flaws. You think it’s normal to get hopping mad because your parents told you to tell them where you were going and to call if you were going to be late (gah! It’s like I can’t do ANYTHING without being under their thumb!). It’s not normal though–it’s ego. And just wait until every day of your life involves little teeny challenges to your ego as you find your way being pitted against the ways of others and you have to decide whether it’s more important to you to feed your ego or feed your stomach.

A little while ago, I was told that my attempts to facilitate open and direct communication could be seen as confrontational to the people with whom I was attempting to fix a communication issue.

Imagine my surprise.


6 responses to “Christmas, Communication and Notions Undone

  1. I would much prefer to handle things face to face, directly, with clear and immediate communication. I’ve shelled out over twenty grand in legal fees because my son’s grandparents refuse to communicate over the phone, over email, and definitely not in person….they go through their attorney, who contacts my attorney, who starts his clock and calls me, then calls their attorney back, etc, etc, etc. I’m dead serious. I don’t know who admonished you for having good communication skills, but odds are if you were a man, you’d be praised for your “firm and immediate response”. Strong man = “upper management material”….strong woman = bitch with an attitude problem. Just sayin. Good luck!

    • …the gender thing is definitely another aspect of the communication discussion. Directness is not really a valued quality in womanhood, historically. Thankfully, things are changing enough to where we are taking over so many industries anyway (up to a certain level anyway) that it’s becoming more and more irrelevant. The rest of your situation, I am sorry to hear and a bit bewildered. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Engaging post. The part about ego checking is definitely a serious matter more so here in the U.S. than anywhere else because we’re brought up to be on our own hubris. Our notion of superiority or as you put it so expertly the idea that our way is the best and that any doubters of this fact must face extreme hostility.
    Face to face communication is great in that it leaves no room for error. Yea people may not like what is said; They do however have to listen.

    • thank you for reading and commenting. I never knew how much of how I lived was ego before I became an adult, but yes. We are trained to be egotistical here from the cradle up (I mean “individuals”). It definitely puts a new perspective on that cliche my mom used to say: pick your battles

  3. Bryoney! I know how you feel about Christmas. Because of many variables my sister and brother and law nor will Xavier and his daughter will be here til late on Christmas Day. We do a big Christmas Eve celebration and there will be nobody but me and my parents.

    Anyways great post….. you know what I think adds to the problem is FACEBOOK or just the internet, texting etc. I think more and more people do not learn the skills necessary for communication directly with people. They don’t gain the skills of talking face to face with people. Internet provides a safety net that allows you to write your thoughts and edit them and then hide your emotions. And if you don’t like something you just don’t read it or ignore etc. I think so few people know how to actually have honest communication. It is something you have to learn and practice.

    My immediate family has always been very direct and open and honest about everything! I have been told that my family has conversations that most other kids would not have with their parents. There are no secrets. But each one of us is very different in how we communicate. Well me you know me, I am too blunt. My Mother is very quite, reserved, soft spoken and calm tempered, my dad stubborn, bold, confrontational and loud. My sisters and I range between the two. So while we are all very different, we all are very open and direct. But the environment we grew up in allowed us to develop those skills. I feel blessed because I know how to handle face to face confrontation without over reacting or losing my cool and still express myself appropriately.

    • thanks for reading….yeah i do think all of these indirect communication channels make it possible for people’s communication skills to slip…but i also think some people are just different and adjusting to peoples’ differences are a part of life. did you enjoy the time spent with your parents? i was melancholy about not being with my extended family, but my mom and I really ended up enjoying the quality time we spent together

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