I just got off the phone with my mom. Literally. And our conversation highlighted a habit of mine. I don’t know about other people, but when I’m asked a serious question about my life or future I immediately get flustered. (This is probably another reason why I have a hard time telling people that I want to be a writer.) For some reason, I get defensive, stutter and then stammer; I’m like a nervous teenager. And to overcompensate for my disconnected mumblings I keep asking, “Do you see what I’m saying?”
No! You can’t “see what I’m saying”; for one, you can’t see words. But also: I can’t even “see what I’m saying” when I’m talking like a sputtering, spastic idiot. How do I expect someone else to? See, this is how communication deteriorates.
I sure wish I had an intern who is hearing impaired again.
Eyebrows are furrowing. I know it. Questions are being asked. What did she say? And is that even politically correct? (You read it right and yes, it is.)
So, last summer I worked with probably the intern superstar of all interns. (You can nominate others, but I will summarily deny them.) She is masterful with a spreadsheet, plus sarcastic and crass at all the right moments. She also happens to be hearing impaired. Having never worked with anyone who was hearing impaired before, I had no idea how our communication would develop.
However, through working with her, I soon learned a very instructive lesson. (She reads lips and has voice.) One day, she came up to my desk to ask a question. I was in a frenzy over something and turned to stand in front of her so that we could talk. But I was chomping on a mouthful of Skittles, waving my hands, and trying to talk to her using sounds that are entirely indecipherable if you read lips. She looked at me like I was out of my mind. I took a breath and said, “You have no idea what I just said, do you?”
She pursed her lips and shook her head, “No.”
And at this moment I fully realized how communication is stifled by agitation or anticipation. If I want to talk to someone in a way that is going to produce results or advance a conversation, I need to be clear. And I am clearest when I am calm and confident in what I want to say. I think that this is especially important during times of transition because during transition is when I rely on others more. I need assistance from them. And I am responsible for communicating how they can help and what I need.