Learning to be Active by Doing

June 25th, 2011

It’s been a long week, and I’m not ready to post about it, may never. Not the specifics anyway. But I want to write today, about some of the solutions. I hesitated about that word, solutions. We haven’t fully solved anything, but he asked what I wanted to do, to make sure we did not end up here again, and two of those things are what I want to talk about. They aren’t really solutions, but they are processes that will help us.

They are processes he has been teaching me since I met him. I have learned more about verbal communication in the last three years, than in the previous twenty-five. (I’ll grant that learning to talk was pretty huge in those first three years of life.)

I lived my young life in the shadows, being fairly passive, letting circumstances, events and people pull me along. I could take a stand and step forward in a pinch, but it wasn’t until college that I really started learning to stand up for myself. After, when I moved out west, I dropped back into the shadows. When we got back home, I started to step out again. I was out in front meeting people and being social and making choices again. We became poly and joined the kink community and I started finding my voice and my spine. He’s been helping me develop and grow both since I met him, as well.

But there is so much more to successful poly than that. I harp on communication all the time. And yet again, I fell down. I haven’t done my write up on Part Two of The Ethical Slut, yet, but it’s all about agreements, and communication and jealousy. Not necessarily in that order. It’s about specificity, and being completely clear and getting what you need.

The two things I want to talk about today are active communication and active thinking. Two concepts that are not unfamiliar to me, but that I need to take a deeper look at.

Active communication is not just about listening and responding. It is about making sure you understand what is being said. It includes telling the other person what you are hearing them say, in your own words, to make sure you are getting the message they are trying to deliver. We use different language sometimes and it can make clear communication difficult. Sometimes it may take rephrasing several times to make sure you are both on the same page, or even in the same book. Try to be patient.

It is also about making sure you know what the conversation is about. By this I mean, we sometimes come at things sideways, or with humor to diffuse a possibly difficult subject, but it’s important to know what the conversation is really about. To not get sidetracked on a tangent and miss the point completely. If you have a question, make sure it gets answered, and everyone knows the question and the answer. If you are the one sidetracking the conversation, check yourself, ask yourself, and your partner if necessary, if you actually answered the question or concern, and if you really understood the question in the first place.

Active thinking. This has several layers for me. On the surface, it is constantly considering your actions and their consequences. In poly, it means including the consequences with your partners (and maybe even their partners) in your considerations. It also means being self-aware of any uncertainty or confusion in these considerations. Which then turns back around to active communication to get those uncertainties or confusions cleared up.

If I do not know, with fairly absolute certainty, how something is going to affect my partners, if we haven’t discussed it, or it is a new situation, then I should step back and really consider what I’m up to. If it could have any negative consequences whatsoever for my partners and loved ones that they have not agreed to, I need to step away. Then, I need to talk to them, discuss the action and come to an agreement about it. There are often negative consequences that people will agree to, – feeling uncomfortable, being jealous – but the whole point is to make everyone as comfortable and safe and happy as possible. I have to be actively thinking about all of this, all the time, so I recognize when an agreement hasn’t been made, or is needed.

Learning to be active by doing doesn’t always mean going out and doing what you want. Often it means being active in your conversations and being active in your thinking. Being aware of yourself and your needs and finding out about your partners and their needs. Communicating and making agreements and then being active and conscious about keeping them.


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