The sender, the receiver, and the message

I remember in one of my psychology classes in college (I was a psych minor so I took a ton and can not remember for the life of me which one we talked about this in but anyway) we spent an entire chapter talking about communication. And communicating is really simple–it’s amazingly simple when you consider how much we do it.

Person A has an idea or thought that they want to share. That thought is then coded within Person A’s brain, and Person A sends out a message. Person B takes that thought in and decodes it. Then Person B understands what Person A said.

Sender -> Message -> Receiver
Yeah, Simple!

Our styles of interpretation and how we have learned to communicate as well our life circumstances are what murk up a perfectly simple process. And to avoid getting too scholarly (mostly because the old psychology notes that are permanently stored in the back of my brain are gathering cob webs and dust), communication is so simple and yet so, so very hard. It is a constant battle in the our house.

Josh and I have been together almost 8 years, married for over 3. We have grown and changed as people. We have been together through good times and bad, deaths and births, we’ve laid the foundation of a life down together, and we still communicate about as well as we did back in 2006. And it is the biggest problem in our relationship. In fact, it’s probably, really, the only problem in our relationship. If we could communicate with one another better, the other problems might cease to exist. But I’m stubborn. And he’s stubborn. I like to always be right. He does things he knows will make me angry. I’m very emotional. He has issues with identifying and processing his emotions. I let go of things and can move on. He lingers over things and draws them out for days. All these obstacles make it so that we can not communicate with each other effectively.

Yet, somehow, we’ve made it this far. And we are constantly trying to be better. We are. Our fights are always over stupid things – things that don’t matter and most of them come from that decoding. When Person B takes in the message from Person A, that’s when things get rough for us. That whole life circumstances and original learning of communication takes our supposedly straight line of communication (Sender->Message->Receiver) and turns into a great big ball of wibbly wobbly communication stuff. (If you get that reference, you’re fantastic.)

It goes from this:

Person A

to this:

Person b

which becomes this:

Person b2

and then this:

Person a2

It’s an awful cycle. And the ball of wibbly wobbly communication stuff just becomes more and more tangled and knotted like an unruly ball of yarn until there is yelling and tears. We’ve been trying different ways to keep that ^ from happening. But it does. And it will continue. 8 years is a lot knotting in the giant ball, and untangling it isn’t easy. Some people decide to just cut the string and start fresh with a new ball of yarn, but we aren’t throw in the towel kind of people. Remember, we’re stubborn. And good communication is like any other skill – it takes lot of practice to get better at it. Somehow we made it this far without realizing that we needed to make it more simple and clear. It’s also trial and error. We both get so worked up that it makes everything escalate into something it doesn’t need to be.

The last time we were having an argument we tried just writing things down in a notebook and passing it back and forth until we worked it out. Sometimes body language and voice tone can be your biggest enemy. Removing the element of having to actually talk to each other left the decoding of the message simply to seeing what the other person was simply thinking and putting on paper. It’s hard to argue back and forth like that. And it worked for that particular argument. I’m not saying it’ll always work, but, in this particular case, it did. And it’s progress.

And the real reason why communication has been something on mind lately is because of my beast mode toddler and her serious lack of communication skills. Which turns into momma’s serious lack of patience. Having is 2 year old is hard for a lot of reasons (the tantrums, the food throwing, the stripping of clothes in public, the refusal to eat foods she loved last week, the constant punching of the cat, to just name a few), but the hardest part of it, to me, seems to be the fact that she can’t just tell us what’s wrong. It’s a constant guessing game most of the time.

She knows a few words, but most of the time it’s just screaming or tears or both. And she’s recently learned to throw herself on the floor. That’s fun (not).

I know she’ll get to a point where she’ll be able to tell us what’s going on and what it is that she wants, but it’s hard. And frustrating. Yes, the definition of frustration in the dictionary has a picture of a screaming toddler underneath it.

Scene:

Whining in the backseat.

“Do you want your baby?”

Through tears, “Yeah.”

::hands baby doll::

::throws baby doll on floor::

“Do you want a book?”

Through louder tears, “Yeah.”

::hands book:

::throws book, hitting mommy’s hand in the process::

“What do you want?! Tell me what you want. Use your words”

More screaming with occasional babbling mixed in which continues until she finds her foot and removes her shoe and stops crying.

Fin.

Again, having a toddler is frustrating. And it’s not just the tantrums out of her inability to communicate. It’s also from her inability to fully understand what it is we’re talking to her about. Like, at a roller derby game, and I ask her if she pooped and she responds with a very clear “Yes” and I drag her and a changing pad and diaper and pack of wipes down the oversize steps and through the crowd to the circa 1950s bathroom where I stripped her of her outfit (including a tulle tutu) on a slightly broken, angled changing table only to discover that she did not, in fact, poop.

Or when she’s crying in the morning and I know she’s hungry so I ask if she wants a banana. “No.” Do you want a waffle? “No.” Do you want milk? “No.” Do you want a pony? “No.” (I’ll remember that kid.) So, I ignore her and pack my lunch. Next thing I know, she’s patting the front of the fridge. Of course, I already asked her if she wanted milk. Of course, this is how she tells me she wants milk.

Communication. It’s clearly gotta work both ways.

Whether its a husband or a child or whoever else, communication is vital. There’s so much miscommunication in the world as it is, I know I, personally, have to start getting better at it. There’s so much power in the way we communicate. And I realize that verbal communication isn’t the only form. Nonverbal is just as important if not the most important part of how we interact with one another. As it is, it’s all just something I will need to keep working on. If Ellabelle has shown me anything, it’s not just being able to say words, it’s how you use them.

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