I enjoy debate. Quick banter back and forth makes my heart happy. Sarcasm is a second language to me.
That being said, over the years I have learned that I do not enjoy face to face confrontation. When the debate is over issues that are not personal matters, I am all in. I can argue policies, legalities, and opinions all day long. When the topic is about personal issues, I feel attacked and wish to retreat.
I have experienced people in life who did not understand this in me.
We are told from a young age that good communication is done face to face, while you look the person in the eye.
What happens when that feels wrong to one party? Do we have to continue to force them so far out of their comfort zone?
When I encounter a situation where the topic may be uncomfortable, if I am not prepared for it, I am not thinking clearly. My arguments are weak. I state my opinion poorly. I am in fight or flight mode, and I simply want to get away from the situation. I will say or agree to whatever is needed to get myself out of the discomfort.
This is not a great situation to be in. I have managed to be able to gain control over these emotions in my professional life and push through them. In my personal life, I want to walk away from confrontation and talk about it later, when I have had time to process. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, I don’t want to hurt someone in my haste to avoid discomfort.
As I thought about this trait in myself, I began to wonder if this is present in others. We widely accept the concept that everyone has a different “Love Language.” When my older kids were young, we were encouraged to read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The basic concept is that everyone perceives love and affection differently and that if we do not show it to someone in the way that they receive it, there is a breakdown. The five categories he talks about are: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
I have never heard anyone talk so plainly about communication styles. When I looked into communication styles, I found a list of five also that includes: assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, submissive and manipulative. Not exactly what I was thinking about.
We communicate through verbal means, non-verbal, and more.
For me, I want to process the information away from the setting and come back once I have made some decisions.
Many times I do this through writing. Over the years, when I have been involved in a conflict, I will write the person a letter. Sometimes the letter simply helps me to pull together my thoughts. Sometimes the letter is actually delivered to help the person better understand where I am coming from. Mostly it serves to prevent me from having to look someone in the eye while I say something uncomfortable.
Several years ago when my children’s father and I decided to go our separate ways, I purchased a standard composition notebook for each of my kids. The purpose of the notebook if that they would be able to write anything to me that they wanted, and that I would answer.
Over the years, these notebooks have served as a daily log of activities while away from me. They have also sat unused on shelves for months at a time, completely forgotten.
Every now and then, a notebook will show up on my pillow or nightstand. Typically when the child involved is having a difficult time with something they do not want to say in person.
I read, I respond. At a later time, I will usually have a face to face conversation with that child about the issues. The stress seems to be relieved for them in that the topic is already laid out and they do not have to fumble for words.
I love when these notebooks show up. There is a special bond in them. No one knows what they hold except for the two of us, and that is magic.