Sunday, June 19, 2005

Communicating differently

I’ve totally lost the train of thought I had in the shower. A mother’s life is constantly interrupted – I lose my train of thought, my momentum, my keys . . .

I want to make some changes in the way I communicate. This is prompted by two things.

I have been reading The Wonder of Boys. While I can understand this book’s mixed reviews (in fact, I’m kind of relieved to see them), I do think it makes some interesting points. Boys and girls are usually different – as a mother around young children, I can see that. Sure, some boys are more sensitive, and some girls are more aggressive, but I do believe that there are generally biological differences in behavior. It makes me a bit of an alien in my own home, with a husband and three sons. Gurian says that men do not hear as well as women. That was interesting. One of my hot buttons is feeling that I’m not being listened to – it makes me crazy.

The other thing that happened was two nights ago, when our five-year old was at a friends for a sleepover I was snuggling my three-year old and telling him that he makes me happy. He said “And Parker makes you mad.” Well, that’s not exactly what he said, because he mixed up his words some, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant. Yikes! That’s not what I want my kids to think! And I don’t want any of us to live each day thinking that my five-year old makes me mad just by existing.

I want to use this as a springboard to change my communication style. I think it will make life more comfortable for my guys and also for me. If I can limit what I say, and say it clearly, they can hear it, and I can feel that I am heard. I tend to say things quietly, to walk around while I am talking, to think out loud, to go off on tangents, and I criticize my five-year old liberally. I see him shrink back sometimes at what I say. I have to change. He’ll be telling me something and I’ll respond, followed immediately by telling him he needs to do something I just noticed (like put his shoes away). I’d like to reread my handouts on nonviolent communication – their framework seems complicated, but maybe it’s worth a try.

Often my problem is that my thoughts aren’t clear, and it feels that the world will pass me by if I take the time to figure out what I need to say. I know that this will happen with some of my friends who fill up every quiet millisecond (very bright, and very talkative). With my family, I feel like the moment passes and they’re not interested in whatever it was I needed to say, that I’ve only just figured out. I’m not sure how to figure out what I think more quickly. I’m pretty sure that native stupidity is not the problem! Maybe I need to always know what action I want my listener to take. I’m working on letting silence do its work – I know that if I can keep quiet, I often am given gems from my family members – particularly my husband. However, I don’t know that they are doing the same work! Overall, I’m feeling pretty frustrated, but I hope I can make some changes:

* More silence: just because I think it doesn’t mean I have to say it.

* Criticize less: I believe what many authors say – good behavior comes from feeling right. I need to help my kids feel right by cutting the criticism, and hope that the good behavior follows.

* Speak more clearly: speak up, and speak on one message at a time. Make eye contact, don’t multitask when I’m speaking.

And hopefully all this can come from a relaxed and happy Mama.

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