Sprawled on the massage table, I was doing my best to relax and clear my mind. It worked. For about 10 minutes. After that, I started thinking about how I communicate with other people. Ok, I was obsessing about it. In times past, I kept most things to myself and only told others the bare minimum. Now, it feels like I’m sharing too much, almost to the point of being annoying.
How the hell did I get here?
Communication is a strange beast. We rely on it to express ourselves, conduct business, catch up with friends and family. How we communicate continues to evolve, with technology now playing a major role. But what about our individual expectations? That is something I don’t think many of us talk about.
My communication style is often dictated by who I’m talking to. It is also heavily influenced by past history. There have been a lot of times when I felt that few were listening or really hearing what I was saying, so I just shut up. I didn’t communicate a damn thing, because what was the point. I still feel that way at times. My business communication is the one constant. Facts, figures, deadlines, expectations. The CYA (Cover Your Ass) system is one I adopted many years ago to avoid potential problems. Personal communication is something I still struggle with.
My ex-husband and I had decent communication, all things considered. If one of us was going to be late, we let the other know. We often exchanged an email or two in the middle of the day. If he had to work at a project site, he’d always let me know when he was back in the office or on his way home. We never expected the other to read our mind. If we needed something, we asked, we didn’t wait for the other person to ask us if we needed something.
Communicating with my ex-girlfriend was like hitting a moving target. The expectations were always changing and I never knew what she wanted. She wouldn’t tell me. She expected me to read her mind. She expected me to know when the rules had changed. At first, she always wanted to know when I was leaving work. She expected me to answer my phone every time she called. She expected me to guess that she needed something or to ask. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. If I didn’t ask how she was each day, she took it to mean that I didn’t care. That’s not true. It just would’ve been nice for her to offer it up on her own now and then. Especially when she rarely asked me how I was. She would complain that I didn’t talk to her about what I was thinking or feeling. So, I tried to do that more. Then she told me I talked too much and didn’t want to listen and didn’t care.
She, of course, was not subject to the same rules. She would often not call me to let me know she was on her way home from class late at night. She rarely asked if I needed anything. When she did, she usually didn’t mean it and would get pissy if I did ask her for something. She wouldn’t tell me how she was feeling until she was in full tantrum mode, then I really got it.
Very long story short, those four years left me a bit of a neurotic communicator.
I’m seeing it more and more in my daily communication with some people. Those who mean the most to me are the most likely to be on the receiving end of this problem. I go into too much detail about what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. I feel like I need to repeat my intentions or availability ad nauseum so that the person on the receiving end has no doubts about it. How fucking annoying must I be?!
I’m also afraid to tell others about my own expectations. Last time I tried that (with my ex), she said “I don’t give a fuck what your expectations are. I’ll do whatever I fucking what.” I know I shouldn’t project this onto others. But you get burned once, and it stays with you. I don’t want to come off as high maintenance or needy. I’m really not. Except when I am.
So, there I was, getting the knots in my neck and back rubbed out, thinking about whether or not my expectations of others were realistic. Relaxing, no? I like to know how my special people are doing. I like to know if they’re ok. I like to know how they’re spending their day. And yes, I do like to know what they’re thinking. Yeah, it might be a bit much. But it’s how I feel a part of their lives, especially when physical distance is in play. I have to remember that others have different needs and expectations, and more than likely, they aren’t the same as mine. There will be commonality. Where there isn’t, compromise is the key.
The cure for this condition? I don’t know yet. Self-awareness is certainly part of the remedy. Perhaps a dose of discretion as well. Open communication would be good too…just not to the point where people run screaming from me.