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.
January 6th, 2011
I am woman, hear me roar?
So many things in that one little phrase and the way I typed it. I am woman – identity. Hear me – communication. Roar – emotions. Question mark – insecurity. I am secure in my identity, especially as a woman, but it is those other three things that trip me up. On a fairly consistent basis.
I am a writer, I communicate well through the written word. But that is almost always an impractical form of communication in the real world. I cannot write things down for my day job. I cannot sit with a notebook with my friends. I cannot use a whiteboard when I am talking to my loved ones. But, as I have posted over and over again on this blog, communication is of Utmost importance. In life, in poly and in kink. And in most of these cases, it needs be Verbal Communication.
Here is where the other two things come into play for me. Emotion and insecurity.
I am an emotional person and I am not entirely at peace with that. I cry when I’m upset or angry, and I am certainly not at peace with that. I have been working on both of these things. Accepting my emotional reactions, and letting them manifest through tears. I started to type there “when necessary” or “when appropriate,” but that is the trouble. I try to judge my emotions and bottle them if I think them too much. Now, it is a given that crying makes it harder for me to verbalize, and that is another reason I try to stifle it. However, that does nothing for communication. My emotional reaction, my tears, are part of communication. If I am upset, stifling the tears only stifles the communication of my reaction. If I hold it back, bottle it, and do not react, I am not honestly communicating how I feel.
This leads into insecurity. Sometimes, I feel like I am overreacting, or that my reactions are wrong. I let myself feel like my reactions, wants or even needs are not as important or are inappropriate and therefore do not deserve being communicated. I worry that my words won’t come out right and won’t communicate what I really mean or am thinking. I worry that I’ll say the wrong thing and offend someone. This also leads to me not asking questions when I am not clear. I feel like I should be clear, or I should work it out myself, or I’ll upset them by questioning them because I should understand what they said. It’s a vicious cycle that needs breaking.
So, where does this put me?
Thanks to a conversation with him this week, I was at a breaking point. This time, however, it’s a breaking point where I have found the leverage for positive change. This time, I’m taking the peak emotions and using them to move forward instead of curling in on myself. Through meditation, writing and discussion with him. I am able to see these problems more clearly than ever before and create a path to growth.
One, I need to ask questions. I need to trust that people do allow for my crazy. And if I need it to get the question out, I can always say, hey, this sounds crazy, but… because sounding crazy in the moment, and getting it solved, even if it is hard, is far better than holding onto it. Because that can lead to assumptions and false stories that only eat away at me.
Two, I need to allow myself to react. I need to not judge my reactions because that only leads to bottling and unclear communication. Tears are not bad, they simply are a reaction. Obviously, if I’m crying, then something needs to be talked about. Not allowing that reaction out simply allows the problem to continue, perhaps unnoticed.
So, let’s try that first sentence again, with feeling, confidence and sincerity.
I am woman, hear me roar!