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Are you surprised, sometimes, by the things that people *don’t*hear?

 

It’s why I hate it when people walk past you and say “How are you?” without slowing their gait or even looking at your face. It’s why I avoid asking people this question if I don’t have time to hear the answer. What’s the point really, if there is no real interest behind the question? I don’t need people to feign politeness for my behalf. If you’re busy or distracted, that doesn’t usually bother me. I’d rather know that up front.

 

Sometimes, in conversations with friends, we say things to each other that never really register with the other person. Oftentimes, it’s something that is less-than-positive with regards to ourselves. But do you ever walk away, or hang up a phone thinking that part of the conversation was inadvertently screened out by the other person? Like you had two completely different conversations?

 

There are several reasons. Sometimes, someone is genuinely distracted and just doesn’t hear. I’ve had that experience when even a good friend will ask “How are you?” and I express something negative. She told me that was great, until she caught herself and realized I didn’t say anything good, let alone great.

 

Other times, people are so caught up in their own negatives that they filter out everyone else’s bads because they have too much on their plate. Or they think they do. They listen to what you have to say, then wander off the subject and never return. Having spent years living with other women, I find this to be the case many, many times. We are very supportive of each other when our own plates are clear. But once we feel that our negatives outweigh someone else’s, we sometimes just tune out. Not that we don’t care. We just feel that our own problems are more pressing.

 

Other times, it seems that people have an opinion of your situation, and their outlook is much more rosy. I’ve said the same bad thing over and over to people and have had them say “Oh, but [the situation] is just fine.” They have determined that the situation *is* fine, and nothing I say about it will sway them. Or really, maybe they desperately want it to be fine because any alternative is much too complex to deal with. That’s a tough one. I’ve been in that situation, and sometimes I have helped a good friend face a hard problem head-on. Even if it meant literally weeks and months of working it out. Sometimes, I’ve tried to make myself scarce, thinking “I don’t know how to make this person feel better, and there may be someone better able to help.” Is that a little chicken-shit of me? Yes, I’ve had those moments. And sometimes I’ve been an idiot and completely missed that there was a problem at all. Ack!

 

What’s a good solution? I’m not entirely sure. I’ve had situations where I feel that my own plate is too full and I know I am less responsive to other people. Sometimes, I find it’s best to avoid everyone for a while to recharge my own batteries. I know my own fuse is short or my own attention is distracted. Because, when I am talking to someone I care about, I try my hardest to actually listen to what he or she is saying (unless, of course, I’m calling to tell them something really really bad). I admit all the time if I am helpless to offer much in the way of advice, but I still try and listen. It somewhat amuses me that some people sometimes do not hear what I say out loud.

 

Oh wait. That’s not amusement I was feeling…

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