This morning I would like to talk about generational communication differences. Well, actually let me zoom in a bit. This morning I would like to talk about how my brain works and how that interferes with my communication.
No, let me zoom in more. This morning I would like to talk about an argument I had with my husband last night regarding the thermostat in our house. We can work outward from there.
Last night, my husband and I had an argument which began with what I thought was a pretty innocuous statement about how I thought we should turn the A/C down now that it’s cooler, at which my husband said “you’re impossible” and made little puffing sounds, not angrily but obviously flummoxed. Confused, I asked what the problem was with what I had said, to which he said he had been wanting to turn the A/C down for months and that I had undermined any effort on his part to do so and turned down any suggestions to do so as well. At that point I became a bit defensive and responded that I had no recollection of any of this.
Our discussion continued and heated until we reached a point where I think we both realized we had become reactive and not open to listening, so we mutually backed off. Once things had cooled and I had reflected a bit, I began to really think about what I had said and done in the past few months. I suddenly remembered that I had about a month ago changed the A/C schedule to come on more frequently at night after my daughter had seemed too hot while she was sleeping (I told my husband this but didn’t explain that she had been sweating when we woke up for night feedings). Also, my father-in-law from Maine had been visiting for a month recently, and I had preemptively turned the thermostat down before he got here because I knew the summer heat would be uncomfortable for him (I don’t think I told my husband about this). And I remembered several times when my husband had commented that it was cold in the house, to which I think I said “yeah, kind of”, or something to that effect (because in my mind, my daughter’s comfort is more important than ours right now since it affects how fussy she is and how well she sleeps). It is likely that from his perspective, I just wanted it to be colder.
My husband often complains that I don’t say enough. I don’t think he means that I don’t talk enough, because I talk plenty, but rather that I don’t say enough of what I think. My brain is usually operating like a runaway train. I realized long ago that to compensate, I often communicate by jumping to the conclusion without explaining how I got there, most noticeably when speaking to people. Everybody does this to some extent, but my crazy-train-brain does it to the point that I often omit large swathes of thought processes in my language and often without me realizing I am doing it. For this reason, I am often misunderstood when I talk to people because they are not getting complete information. This has been something I have had to work on, particularly in professional environments, and I will probably be working on it for the rest of my life.
This is also why I like writing. It is much easier to get everything down in writing, probably because I don’t have to do as much mental editing with writing as with speaking. I just kind of word vomit onto the keyboard. Also, writing actually slows me down a bit; just the act of writing forces me to take one step at a time, rather than just leaping straight to the point.
This morning, while escaping zombies on the city greenway, I was thinking about how unattractive my blog is compared to some other blogs I have perused on wordpress. This blog is supposed to be for me, and indirectly for my daughter, so I was not initially concerned with making it readable. I want it to be low-stress and easy to maintain, after all, my main objective in writing it is to help me to be a more thoughtful parent, wife, citizen, etc, and I don’t need pizzazz to accomplish that. But the part of me that wants people to like me still wants it to be read.
I wouldn’t read my blog. I mean, I’d read it if it was, maybe, wedged in the middle of a cool book on philosophy. Chapter 19 or something. But if I was web-surfing, there are a gazillion other blogs I would read before I would read this one. There’s no pictures, big paragraphs, not enough humor.
I was thinking of a co-worker of mine where I used to work; he is younger than me, a millennial. But he is also a runaway train thinker, like me. He writes painfully long work emails, like me. But unlike me, he includes a TLDR section at the bottom. Too Long Didn’t Read. A little section with all the critical information in it.
Some other people I worked with who wrote long emails would underline or highlight certain portions, as if to say, if you don’t read anything else, read the part that I am shouting at you.
This used to irk me. If I took the time to write an email, ALL of it was important. If you only read the critical items, you are missing out on the background, the supporting information, the WHY.
This is where I get all, like, “kids these days”. I’m not even sure if it’s a generational thing, but it seems to be. I mean, everyone, all human beings, tend to be more attracted to things that stand out, like pictures, humor, and bullet points. But I feel like now, more than before, people are less willing to consider things that are not immediately attention-grabbing.
It seems like a lack of discipline. I insist that there are things in life that are not supposed to be fun and you should embrace that or you are being immature. My husband, who is different from me in many ways, says that is my German Catholic upbringing speaking, that I have a fatalistic take on life and believe that pain is inevitable.
Well, yes, I think that pain IS inevitable, but I don’t think that’s fatalistic. And it’s not like I don’t think that fun is important—-I place a VERY high importance on fun. But I believe in balance, and if you are running around having fun all the time you are probably missing out on something.
In the same way, I believe that if people are only willing to pay attention to things that are attention-grabbing, they will not get the whole picture. I think that this is a bad thing. Or, at least, not a good thing. And I’m not just being curmudgeon-y, I really feel like there is a trend towards less depth in thought, less of a desire to know or understand the reasons behind things. I’m not saying that we should all just sit around contemplating the mysteries of the universe all day, or even that we should always read really long work emails, but if we stop being willing to entertain something that is not flashy, or pay attention for just a little longer than we are comfortable with, we will lose our capacity for critical thought and innovation.
This is why I am seriously considering home-schooling or at least alternative-schooling my daughter. I find the trend in education to focus only on meat and potatoes disturbing. Meat and potatoes are, well…..meat and potatoes (for instance, STEM subjects), but they are not a balanced diet and will not create thoughtful, problem-solving adults. I feel like we have relegated education to “just the stuff they HAVE to know”. How is that education? I argue that this is not education, but rather indoctrination.
Are all problems in the world the product of people who refuse to read long work emails? No. But I can’t even express my frustration when I try to teach someone something and all they want to learn is the answer. Because when the problem comes up again, they are no more capable of solving it than they were before.
I actually had one or two teachers in college who very much taught to the test and would say things like “a + b = c, that’s all you really need to know” and when I asked why, they said “I’m not going to ask you that on the test.” Amazing how education can become something that doesn’t really need to involve learning, just memorization.
Anyways, if you’ve read all this way, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Thank you for reading.
Maybe I AM just curmudgeon-y and am jealous of all the young millennials running around enjoying themselves. But in my defense, I’d like to say that I DID spend the majority of my 20s running around and “enjoying myself”, and I can honestly say things are a lot better for me now that I’ve chilled out and have become willing to do things that aren’t immediately gratifying more often.
Maybe I’m just resistant to a different perspective because I feel like it doesn’t embody the same values that I hold dear.
Or maybe the next time I’m thinking of adjusting the thermostat, I should write my intentions in an email with a TLDR section at the bottom.