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Posts Tagged ‘personality’

Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau quotes

One of the reasons I’ve not been blogging as much recently is that I’ve been struggling to find topics. Or, more specifically, topics that fall under the heading of “life, learning and communication.” Of course, it can be argued that everything can be put under that heading – everything that I come up with will unavoidably relate to at least life, if not the other two.

I’ve also been thinking about the purpose of the blog. I love pondering communication, not least because I’m using pragmatics tools in my MA thesis. More than that, though, I am fascinated by learning.

Even more so as nowadays I stay at home with the eleven-month-old and get to witness the incredible rate of learning that takes place all the time. All. The. Time. At the moment, she’s learning to take her first steps unassisted, and she’s exploring language at the same time. I’m stunned every day by the sheer effort and determination that I get to observe.

This, in fact, is another reason I’ve been shying away from blogging. There’s a cornucopia of topics in our day-to-day life alone, but I’m reluctant to flood the blogosphere with stories of my child if I’m not a mommy blogger. It’s related to the feeling of not wanting to have every single Facebook update be about my child – and that turns into not posting anything, even if I find something interesting and would otherwise like to share it.

Who is it, again, that’s doing the insightings?

Ever since the baby’s arrival, I’ve been in a kind of limbo with my personality and identity. Before, I was a student, a singer, an active participant in student organisations, a freelance teacher, an employee, as well as a daughter, a sister, a friend and a wife.

Now, I am a mom. And a wife. And a student, and a few other things that I used to be. However, my social life has shifted radically from what it used to be. Before, my planner would be filled most evenings, starting at five p.m. and going on until nine, ten or the wee hours of the morning. Now, I have to be home by five thirty for the baby’s dinner and bedtime, and if I go out, it’s a rare occurrence that takes place about once a month. That’s change for y’all.

Another thing that has shifted are my priorities and interests. Ever wonder why new mothers can talk endlessly about how their babies feed, cry, poop and sleep? Those three things are pretty much the only ways to tell whether or not the baby is healthy, what with the limited means of communication at the baby’s disposal. After health issues, you get gear. Strollers, babywearing slings, diapers (cloth or disposable), clothes, bedding… You can fill up several hours of conversation with all things baby, which you have undoubtedly noticed if you’ve ever met a new parent.

When your world revolves around the newcomer 24/7, there’s little else that grabs your attention.

Our daughter was born about a week before the whole volcano incident in Iceland – you know, the one that wiped out most of the European flight traffic for a week? I had no idea that it was that significant. In my baby-filled world, it wasn’t, except for the fact that one of the baby’s godparents was stuck in Denmark at the time and managed to get a rental car ride back to Finland.

After being in that baby bubble for several months – you remain there if most of your social contacts are other new moms who are also at home and available for lunch during the day – it’s quite a task to regain your non-mom identity.

For the past few months, I’ve done quite a bit of searching on the topic of Who I Am. Who is this person when she is not singing Old McDonald Had A Farm seven times in a row? Who is she when she is not working at the freelance contract job? Who is she when she is not putting in the hours for her thesis?

One powerful part of my search has been The Sedona Method, where the central process is one of letting go. A key way of letting go is welcoming the situation as it is, then welcoming the emotions that relate to it, and then welcoming any sense that the situation is about you personally.

Right now, I can either keep struggling to find out what I’ve become, or I can welcome the sense of being This, whatever it may be, and then explore it from a place of acceptance.

This is what I am today

Which brings us back to the tagline. If I don’t resonate with it anymore, I can change it. There’s a lot to be said about life, learning and communication, but right now I am not the person to say it on this blog. Or say it from that perspective. I will probably deal with similar topics as I have in the past, but I want to put a new spin on them.

One of the things that I still am is a Shivanaut. My practice is not rock-solid or enviably advanced, but when I need Shiva Nata, I go for it. I want to teach it one day. I love how it makes me feel. I love the fact that I will never use it up, even if I started doing it every day for an hour. I resonate with it on a very deep level, and that makes me a Shivanaut, even if I don’t do it every morning anymore.

I am a mother. With all its ups and downs, motherhood is the biggest thing I’ve ever faced, even if I only measure it with the level of responsibility and involvement. I have not exactly been shouting it from the rooftops for the past year. On one level, it’s a weird way of penance for the fact that we were blessed with a baby when others have not been as fortunate. I almost feel guilty for what we’ve been given, even though I know that it’s not a zero sum game.

I’m still fascinated by learning, and especially the experiential learning approach where experience is followed by reflection and then analysis to yield theories about the phenomenon. It’s the key learning process behind the branch of drama education I’m studying, as well as a powerful tool for any form of self-development, whether learning a skill or trying to figure out a relationship.

I will do my very best to use this blog as a place of reflection and analysis, and hopefully offer some of you a lesson or two in the practical process of experiential learning as well.

Thank you ever so much for stopping by! If you like what you’re reading, why not subscribe? Whether you do or not, I’d love to hear any comments below – and as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.
Kahlil Gibran

When I was a teenager, my deepest desire was to be Someone Special. In my journal, I’d rant and rave about how I was ordinary, average, mediocre, boring, and how I hoped something – anything – would happen so I’d be exceptional.

Today, I still feel I’m ordinary, average, mediocre and borderline boring, and I’m pretty content with that. On some level, I do realize I have skills and characteristics that are not average for my age group and social context, but I always relate them to the global context as individual traits – “it’s not like I’m the only student mom out there”.

This view of being ordinary and average sometimes cripples my blogging. I’ll come up with an idea, and then not blog about it because I’ll think it’s already painfully obvious for everyone else but me. By blogging about it as if it were a whole new concept, I’d effectively reveal my true, average, ordinary and boring self to all the world and Internet to point and laugh at.

Because, let’s face it, the one time I end up blurting out something embarrassing is when everyone decides to visit my blog and leave a *facepalm* in the comments, right?

The thing about the painfully obvious is that it’s not, well, universal. If it were, I doubt the world would have as many wars and conflicts going on as it does. Instead, it’s all in the viewpoint.

A tree standing in the middle of a field is only obvious to those standing at the edge of the field. If someone is standing in the woods and peering toward the field, they might see the tree or they might not. If someone is standing at the edge of the field with their back to the tree, they’ll most likely not see the tree. If there’s no-one to tell people to move away from the woods or turn around, the tree will remain hidden.

And this is where we get to the part of me being ordinary, average and boring. Sure, there are other student moms out there. Other nearly bilinguals. Other Shivanauts, other drama students, future teachers. It’s the combination of those that gives me a unique viewpoint into the things that I’m interested in.

It’s your unique combination of characteristics, skills and traits that gives you the viewpoint where something is painfully obvious to you but still needs voicing, just in case the rest of us are standing in the woods.

For me, this is intimately linked to the “be boring” instruction in Johstone’s theatrical improvisation. Trying to be creative and individual often means you come up with the same jokes, puns and situations countless others have already come up with.

That which is painfully obvious to you is actually the most unique and creative thing you could come up with, because no-one has your exact point of view on life. The shared aspects give us the common ground we need to understand each other, and the differences allow us to expand our individual points of view.

Help us all out of the woods and face the field, so to speak.

Thank you again for stopping by! Keep catching your own unique insightings, and if this post inspired you, I’d love it if you shared some of your thoughts!

Love,

Sari

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“Knock, Knock…”
“Who’s there?”
“Interrupting cow.”
“Interrupting c…”
“MOOOOOOOOOO!”

Today,  I finally finished analyzing the data for my teacher training BA thesis. The data was a videotape (an actual, old-school videotape – I’m not kidding!) of a 75-minute process drama session I taught a few weeks ago. Despite the fact that I wasn’t analyzing my own behavior as such, I did have to watch myself teach that specific process four or five times.

Talk about reflecting on your behavior. Eugh.

Mannerisms

One of the painful, painful teacher mannerisms I seem to have is that I keep talking long after I was supposed to shut up. Case in point: I’ve given instructions for a small group discussion in roles, and the students have started talking. And then I think of something important about the instruction and shout it out, thereby interrupting everyone’s conversation and/or their chain of thought.

If they managed to start working without that tidbit of encouragement, they would have made it to the end without it, too. Or they would’ve asked.

And that’s another mannerism – answering every single question. Even after the most detailed and thorough set of instructions,  when groups start working, someone asks “so what was it we were supposed to do?” and the group negotiates the rules all over again.

I know this.

However, while teaching the drama process, I seemed to have completely forgotten that there is such a mechanism as peer negotiation. As a result, I watched myself give needless advice over and over again. Another flavor of talking when you’re not supposed to. Augh.

There were more. Oh, the cornucopia of painful mannerisms I noticed in my behavior while watching the video. The fidgeting, the stuttering, the delightful habit of starting each sentence with “umm…”, and all others. Ouch. Ouch.

Reflections, again

It’s often highly painful to watch or listen to yourself on tape. The elegant, sophisticated I transforms into an irrational, unpredictable That. Small quirks turn into monster mannerisms when you see them through someone else’s eyes for the first time.

This is also why it’s so useful to watch or listen to recordings of your speech or other behavior. So much of it is unconscious and automatic that it’s nearly impossible to understand just how extensive some of the mannerisms are.

On the other hand, it’s very reassuring to see yourself acting calm, cool and collected in a situation where you know you were on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

And then there’s the learning part.

By making an experience conscious by reflection, and then finding common denominators between different situations by analysis, you can turn any experience into a learning experience. (I apologize for using that phrase, but it’s really the only expression that truly grasps the meaning.)

Speaking of learning experiences:

A few years back, there was a guy on Late Night with Conan O’Brien who had sold a large percentage of his skin as ad space. In other words, he had taken ads as tattoos on his body for money. It turned out in the conversation that he’d actually received, in total, a fraction of the price that advertisers pay for air time on a Late Night commercial break.

When Conan O’Brien asked him if he regretted doing it, he answered, “No, I mean, it’s been a learning experience for me, definitely.”

And that’s when I felt sorry for the guy. Because honestly, what situation is he learning for? The distant future when he gets a second skin to sell to advertisers? To each his own and all that, but I have to wonder – was he really happy with his decision, or did he just feel he had to say so in front of the camera?

I’m sure he learned something, eventually. It would’ve been interesting to hear what, exactly, had he learned about it, and how he was going to apply his new knowledge in the future.

As far as my own annoying, interrupting cow -erisms, my goal for the rest of the spring is to practice silent listening and concise instructions. Fortunately, I still have some skin left to change my behavior.

Thank you for stopping by again. If you come up with a situation the ad-tattoo guy could be learning for, or if something else struck your insighting-bone, feel free to comment.

Until next time – keep catching those insightings!

Love,

Sari

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If it’s the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?
Robin Williams

Interpreting what a speaker means from what they say – not always an easy task. Pragmatical interpretation has sometimes been dubbed a relative of mind reading in the sense that we use hints and clues from the other person’s behavior – verbal or otherwise – to collect information on what the person is saying.

As a disclaimer, I have no opinion whatsoever of people who seem to possess actual psychic abilities, and whether or not they use the same senses all of us do or something more.

A lot of indirect communication takes place through flouting conversational maxims – those of Quantity, Quality, Relevance and Manner.

Combined with indirect speech acts, you can end up with seemingly incoherent conversations where everyone is on the same page. Alternatively, you can have a very frustrated listener and a very annoyed speaker who are in different books altogether.

If you really loved me…

Stereotypically, women are the ones often accused of expecting that everyone else knows what they think. Depending on the culture and the person, I’d guess there are a number of men with this tendency as well.

That may very well be a politeness issue: if a person thinks it is rude to flat out ask for what they want, they might drop careful hints and then be disappointed when their hints are ignored.

The other classic example is the “if you don’t know why I’m mad at you, I’m not going to tell you!” -phenomenon. You know, claiming that everything is “fine!” and then sulking around, very clearly demonstrating that this is not the case.

In both of these phenomena, the indirect communicator puts the responsibility of the communication on the other person. If they don’t pay enough attention to infer the right meanings, the message will not come across.

I know I’ve been guilty of repeatedly saying that everything is fine and nothing is wrong, and then getting upset when the other person walks away, frustrated by the lack of feedback. Similarly, I’ve been disappointed I didn’t get what I clearly hinted about for my birthday.

Maybe the illusion of “great minds think alike” is too strong. Of course, it’s scary to admit your true feelings – I want this, I’m upset about that. Maybe it’s easier to reveal just a tiny bit of skin and hope that someone catches the hint instead of flashing your entire emotional arsenal and hope no-one shoots you down.

Trust

So now we get to why I’m sometimes very annoyed by indirectness in close relationships. Politeness reflects distance. Indirectness reflects boundaries. Boundaries and distance are all well and good, but there’s something to be said for closeness, trust and honesty as well.

Some time ago, a friend of mine said she needed to talk with me about X, a matter that was troubling her about our situation. We agreed to talk, and I spent a lot of energy processing X, my feelings about X, all the guilts and the what ifs and the other stuff.

We got together, and started talking about X. As we reached an agreement, I saw she was still not all right. As it turned out, X was not the actual problem at all, it was Z all along. Furthermore, Z was something I had never even considered, and was really surprised that Z would even be relevant to her.

We finally reached a consensus about Z as well, but the incident troubled me.

I felt offended that she didn’t tell me Z was the problem to begin with.

I felt hurt that she would think I was a Z kind of person.

I felt annoyed that I had spent all that time processing X, was really proud of myself for figuring it out, and was slapped in the face with Z out of the blue.

And I felt frustrated because I had to fish out the real reason after a reasonable amount of conversation, when she was the one with the need to clear the situation.

A big huge trust issue about a relatively small indirectness thing.

Blech.

What I learned from this, though – getting the grief and the messy out of the way the first time is well worth it. Politeness and indirectness in big relationship matters might mean that you have to go through all that nasty stuff twice.

Thank you for stopping by, and until we meet again – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!”

Lewis Carroll

One of my favorite favorite books about pragmatics is Deborah Tannen’s That’s not what I meant!, which deals with the balance between directness and indirectness in communication.

To explain the paradoxical human need for both independence and connection, Tannen uses an example of a group of porcupines in the winter. To stay warm, the porcupines need to huddle up as close to each other as possible. Sadly, the closer they get, the more they poke each other, so they have to stay at a distance to avoid getting hurt. Which means they’ll get cold again, and huddle up. Ouch. And step back. And on and on again.

Which is exactly what humans do, too: in order to stay connected, we get too close, and in order to give others privacy, we keep away. In terms of direct vs. indirect communication, the former often serves the purpose of creating closeness, whereas the latter often observes the boundaries and distance your hearer needs.

Directness

With every utterance, a speaker performs a speech act. It can be a question (“Where is the car?”), a command (“Give me the sweater!”), a statement (“Something smells bad in here.”), or a bunch of other speech acts, like promises, threats, or requests.

In terms of speech acts, directness could be explained as matching the speech act with the grammatical structure it most naturally takes. In the examples above the question, the command, and the statement are all easily recognizable, and can be interpreted at face value.

Now imagine a stranger walks up to you on the street and says those three things. You feel quite offended, right? Politeness rules dictate that increase in social distance requires more indirectness.

Then again, a mother would have no problem saying those things to her seven-year-old, for two reasons. One, the two are socially very close to each other. Two, the mother is higher in the social hierarchy than the seven-year-old.

Directness between equals, then, often marks closeness. You wouldn’t think twice about telling your best friend those jeans make her behind look horrible – at least before she buys them. Or telling your spouse that s/he has toilet paper stuck on the sole of his/her shoe. You trust them enough to interpret your message at face value and to not read some hidden criticism into it.

Directness requires a good nose for the situation, however. Being too direct when stating your opinion might seem like an insult, especially if the hearer perceives you as being lower in the social hierarchy. Direct commands, of course, can easily sound like you’re bossing people around.

Asking direct questions from someone you’re not that close with may make the hearer feel you’re being nosy or intrusive. Furthermore, they might feel you’re forcing them to be rude by asking a question they cannot skate over and must answer with a direct “I don’t want to tell you.”

Indirectness

If directness was defined as matching your speech act with your structure, indirectness would then be e.g. using an interrogative structure (“Are you wearing that to the party?”) to convey a non-question speech act, like a statement (“I don’t think you should wear that to the party”) or even a command (“Go put on something else.”)

As already noted, indirectness is very useful in socially distant situations. People have varied levels of directness tolerance, and until you know where the limit is, it’s wise to stay well on the polite side.

The interplay of directness and indirectness is also an interesting factor in social situations where some people know each other better and some are new acquaintances. Using direct speech to your old friends and indirect speech to the newcomers is an efficient way to keep the two groups separate.

On the other hand, addressing your new friends very directly in front of your old friends can have a few effects. It can serve as an invitation to join the group, especially if your directness is matched.

Or it can seem like a form of namedropping, especially if your new friends are somehow higher in social hierarchy.

Case in point:
A while back I attended an event that had people from a few different circles. One of the more amusing moments of that evening was when a woman – one that had been extremely polite and indirect to my friends and very direct to hers – started addressing a few of “our” gentlemen in very familiar terms. Specifically, the hot one and the semi-famous one. Her offer for more familiarity was politely declined by both, though.

When it comes to close relationships, mismatching structure and speech acts can work as either increasing closeness or creating distance.

In a safe and trusting communicative culture, like one you might have with a significant other, using indirect communication can become almost a code language between the participants. Communicating with mere declarations and relying on conversational implicature can enhance the feeling of “s/he can totally read my mind!”

“We’re out of milk.” (indirect request/command)
“I’m going out to the post office in just a moment.” (indirect response to request)
“I’m baking bread this evening.” (indirect request)
“Great, then I’ll bring some yeast, too, just in case.” (indirect response)

On the other hand, you could just as well use indirectness to tell your spouse that you feel like keeping at arms length and you’ll be just fine on your own, thank you very much. Gestures, eye contact and tone of voice all contribute to the effect.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this whole topic of directness, indirectness, trust, closeness and independence. Will most likely be getting back to this on Friday.

Until then, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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