Lesson From An Intern

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.

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