Monday, December 31, 2012

Vulnerability and Communication

It's 20:05 and I'm trying to compose a text message asking this woman I really like if she'd be up for getting together to talk. I sat there nervously laughing at myself as I floundered through draft after draft of the text message, struggling to get the damn thing to say what I mean to say. It's funny because all I'm asking her to do is go out for coffee so we can talk and that's a pretty easy thing to do, right? I mean, I've gone out with her twice already so this should be a walk in the park. I can't really mess up too badly unless I peter-out and not send the text message. The worst that could happen is she says no.

Some of you are probably smirking or doing your own equivalent of the amused look at this point and I'm glad I can be a source of amusement for you, but I have bigger fish to fry. What freaks me out about talking to her is that I want to share my thoughts and feelings. Since there's no manual on how to have a great date, or at least there's not one I've seriously considered reading, I just sort talked about whatever. Family, friends, a few experiences here and there, feminism (that comes up a lot in various ways), and where we're from... That's all fine stuff to talk about and on the second date there was a little more freedom to just talk about thoughts and feelings on stuff, but it was still only surface level stuff. Now before someone sits back in their chair and says, "Well, what did you expect on the first two dates?" You're missing the point and that's partly my fault.

Communication, the real stuff that breaks past the layers of junk which normally distorts what we're saying (cynicism, sarcasm, fear, self-doubt, doubt, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc), that's a really hard thing to have. It probably has some fancy term that you'd learn if you took enough interpersonal communication classes, but instead I'm just going to call it authentic communication. The difficult thing about authentic communication is that it requires being vulnerable. It requires a level of intimacy (in-to-me-see) that I haven't had to have with people on a regular basis. I didn't even realize that I wasn't communicating without my personal filters until this summer when I spent so much time building an authentic community with five other people. We'd stay up late into the night talk through stuff and it would finally come out what I was trying to express and suddenly it donned on me that I had been talking around what I was really feeling and thinking. I've had some time since my first realization and now to practice getting to a place where I can communicate authentically.  

It's really a humbling experience to find yourself practicing what you want to say. Not like in those cute romantic comedies, but it feels more like the longer I think about what I want to say the more I realize that it would have been so much easier if I had learned how to communicate authentically since the time I could talk. Over the years I practiced talking without sharing what I'm really thinking and feeling that when I want to do just that, be open and vulnerable about what I'm thinking and feeling, it's really difficult. There's nothing funny or cute about trying to figure out what it is I'm really trying to say without any pretense or inhibition. For me being vulnerable is hard, it's scary, and yet I believe it is essential to having great relationships (and not just romantic ones).

Peace that surpasses all understanding,

1 comment:

  1. Hearing such things from other individuals is encouraging. Thanks for sharing.