Learning to communicate, and communicate properly

When I was working in Facebook, I had taken a personality test which was internal to Facebook. It’s loosely based on MBTI; frankly, it’s a dumbed down version of MBTI. The concept of that test is that there are four major aspects (for lack of a better word) to your personality. Each person has all four but these vary in the degree to which it influences your actions. And these four are named by colour. These four are (in order of my results):

  1. Gold– Likes to be organized in everything like presentations, thought process, etc.
  2. Blue– Relates well to people and is emotionally invested in others
  3. Green– Is data-driven; before doing anything they ask for data
  4. Orange– Likes spontaneity, is comfortable with ambiguity

Anybody who has spent enough time with me knows that I’m a true Gold. In fact, I’m like Midas; whatever I touch, I organize! When you get the results of the test there are scores against each colour. The colour with the highest score is your primary colour/aspect, and order of colours is in the descending order of the scores. In my results, Gold and Blue were very close together, Green a little distance behind, and Orange far back.

So naturally, I like being organized and hate ambiguity.

I hate ambiguity. Especially in situations where it shouldn’t exist. I understand that there will always be situations when there won’t be any clarity and one has little control over it. I also believe that some times, it’s better to be spontaneous. Like for a weekend road trip, or vacation, or outfit of the day. However, when it comes down to communication between people, there shouldn’t be ambiguity. Let’s use an example.

Recently a group of us wanted to go for a weekend road-trip. For convenience we put together a Whatsapp group in which we were discussing places to go to, dates, etc. After a little bit of activity, the Whatsapp group got quiet. Barely anybody responded to crucial questions like mode of transport. After a few days of trying, even asking again if everybody’s in for this, no response…

See, in my opinion, if a person doesn’t respond to your message on the same day, it’s excusable. They may have been really busy or something might be wrong with their phone or they might not like to chat (in which case, you should know better than to message him/her). There may very well be a valid reason. But if the person has not responded in over two days after having seen it, I think it’s fair to assume that the person isn’t interested in chatting with you. So using that same logic, if people aren’t responding to crucial questions asked regarding a trip, they are not interested in going. Isn’t it fair to think so?

Now my point is, would it kill you to tell the rest of the group that you’re not coming? You know that we are waiting on your for your answer and yet you tell us neither a ‘No’ nor a ‘Yes’. I also believe that this is related to respect. You need to be respectful of people around you. Basic respect. Extend that basic respect that every single human being deserves, regardless of differences. Unless you tell us what’s the situation at your end, how do we move forward with our plan?! If you tell us no, the others can go ahead with their plan. How selfish can you be to stall everybody else’s plans?

This is how I see it- When I know that somebody is waiting on my answer to make a decision or he/she has told me that they’re waiting on me, it is my responsibility to honour that. I might hate or love the person but that is inconsequential. My answer might even be a yes or a no. It’s just like when you’ve scheduled a meeting with somebody and you don’t show up. By not responding to the person, I’m leaving him/her hanging not knowing what to do, or what’s going on in my mind. And especially if the decision is time-sensitive, my non-action might just lead to a lot of loss including straining our relationship. Is the relationship worth it, you might ask. It doesn’t matter. You put yourself in a position of importance and responsibility due to which this question is being directed at you, so the onus is on you regardless of the depth of the relationship. Some will say that not answering means they’re in for it. Some others say the opposite. I say, I don’t know until I’m told in clear words.

♠♠♠

In the US, California changed the legal definition of consensual sex in the wake of rapes and sexual assaults on University campuses. A part of that definition, in layman terms is- ‘Silence doesn’t mean “Yes”. “Yes”, means “Yes”‘. And I strongly believe in that. And the other side too, that ‘No’, means ‘No’.

All my girlfriends know that I’m horrible at flirting. I’m so bad at it that I won’t even realize that I’m being flirted with. The thing with me is, after having a few relationships and guys flirting with me, I have learnt that making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling is an utter waste. My assumptions might be right or wrong. But if I’m wrong in my assumption, it can ruin my relationship. Especially for the kind of person I am, I will keep thinking about it and it will drain my emotional energy. Which is why I ask for the truth. No games. If you like me, say it and say it clearly in those words. If you don’t, say that too. Get it over with. I still remember the first (and only) time I asked out a boy. I think I opened with “Hey, so I like you more than a friend” (I was very young & new to this). It didn’t move forward so I moved on. And I expected the same level of clarity from all my subsequent boyfriends. When my ex cheated on me, the only thing that I asked from him was the truth. I don’t want to be taken on a BS ride. I want you to be honest. I told him that he should have broken it off with me first before hooking up with the other girl. All he needed to say was “It’s not working out. I don’t think we click any more. I like someone else and I want to be with her.” That’s what he should have told me. It’s not like I’m crazy and will lock him up in a warehouse and not let him escape. I know that these things are as difficult to say as it is to hear, but it’s necessary. Yes, it would have pained me to hear this. But not as much as it did to be lied to, cheated on, and humiliated. My funda is, if a statement can be interpreted in multiple ways in a court of law, it means you need to be clearer.

♠♠♠

I’ve never been good at non-professional communication. In my family we just don’t have that kind of sense of communication. Nevertheless, I’m getting better. As I grow and learn, I’m definitely getting better. Two things I’m proud to be getting better at are- Open & Clear Communication, and Confrontation. There have been situations where I just ran away from dealing with the matter without giving any explanation. Even at that point I knew what I was doing was wrong but I couldn’t get myself to act on it. But now I’m a far more mature adult.

Confrontation is never easy. Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable and that’s exactly what confrontation is- leaving your comfort zone. Many times I have debated with myself over whether I should express my discontent or not before talking to someone. My instant reaction is not to confront. It doesn’t come easily but I know that it’s important. I know that many people see confrontation as rude or unimportant. It’s rude only if you express it that way; the act of confrontation in itself isn’t rude. As for it being unimportant, your feelings are never unimportant. If your feelings are affected by it, then confrontation is important. I was once told that confrontation makes people uneasy and can make them stay away from you. I completely agree. There’s a fun saying that common sense is the most uncommon thing. Similarly maturity is like an exotic fruit- found only in certain places. One time, I had expressed my displeasure to the concerned party about something done to me and as a result, we’re not that close any more. And you know what, it’s okay. If you’re not mature enough to deal with an issue properly and are not sensitive enough to people’s needs, too bad. It’s okay if we’re not ‘friends’ any more. I only want to be civil. On the other hand, my closest friends and I have had numerous arguments and falling-outs that were started by confrontations. But we’re still friends, in fact we’re better friends and all of us are getting better at communicating with each other. My closest guy friend and I have had crazy fights, and some really serious ones, but we’ve been friends for two decades. Today we’re both mature adults so our confrontations are a lot more civil and that strengthens our friendship.

♠♠♠

In today’s world of communication, mode of communication has a significant impact on the way we communicate. It might not be as romantic or poetic as it once was, but it’s a whole new world of possibilities. But regardless of the changes, one thing remains constant- there’s no better communication than face to face conversation. This holds especially true when you talk about Unambiguous communication. Another thing that I’ve recently begun doing is talking on the phone or face-to-face about an issue with the concerned person as soon as I can. I have been in situations where addressing an issue via text/IM has screwed up the whole thing. It’s happened to me and to many other people. And the funny thing is, this is extremely easy to avoid.

Recently there was an issue with a man. This man just wouldn’t communicate with me. If I sent him a text or asked a question, I would get an answer three days later if at all. While my intuition told me what was happening, I was aware that my intuitions have been wrong in the past and I might just be over-reacting. And this situation required effort. So at the cost of my ego I kept putting in effort until I got total clarity on this from another source. Eventually this man sent me texts with apologies and bare minimum explanation. The situation itself was neutral; it wasn’t a big deal. But through that conversation, which was happening on Whatsapp, I started getting annoyed at the things he was saying. I’m quite sure he didn’t mean what I thought his text meant, but the way the sentence was phrased just threw me off. I could have argued and made a big deal of it, but I knew that doing that on Whatsapp would have made it worse. The whole thing should have happened over the phone if not face-to-face and maybe I wouldn’t have been left with a bitter after-taste in my mouth.

Please know that no matter what emojis you use it can never properly express what you’re saying. Body language, eye-contact, tone of your voice- all these are crucial aspects of communication, probably even more important than words. Via text or written messages where these are not present are disadvantageous to you. Whatever the issue, first resolve to acknowledge it and deal with it, then choose the right medium to address it. These two things make a colossal difference to your relationships. Once I began making these changes, I noticed that I was also happier. I was proud of myself for overcoming the fear of confrontation and my conscience was satisfied that I at least made that effort and was honest to the other person. I did my part and that’s where my part ends.

 

Post-publish update:

Here’s a brilliant paragraph to elucidate my point from a Forbes’ article:

Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Confident people know that saying no is healthy and they have the self-esteem to make their no’s clear. When it’s time to say no, confident people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” They say no with confidence because they know that saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

It’s okay to say No.

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