Communication skills, Part II


I don’t think you’ll meet many people who say that they find their own thoughts, on most occasions, annoying as hell.

Well, today is your lucky day. I’m one of those people. :-) 

If I were able to sit across from me while I start overthinking, I would probably first stare at myself in disbelief for the hardcore branching out of my brain, then – unable to bear the incredible noise thoughts create – I’d hold my hands against my ears and scream

“Cut it out!


This is … JUST … NUTS!”

And then there would be silence.

That’s really the only way to make my thoughts stop ... for a while; by becoming aware of what's going on in my brain. Only then can I tell the thoughts to get lost and give me a break.

I’m actually very proud of myself to have come this far and being able to catch my thoughts while they have a rock concert and a blast in my mind. As I wrote in my last post My dark side those thoughts can be quite cruel.


clashing worlds 

Sometimes I witness someone else how their thoughts "go mean", and I wished I could just shush (in the most caring way) that person. Especially, if the thoughts are not so much against themselves but more against people around them.

Too often we say something that can be upsetting, hurtful, ignorant, or/and aggressive.

All this makes me wonder:

If millions of us walk around with a head on our shoulders filled with A WORLD of unrealistic, senseless, and unhealthy thoughts – regardless of whether they are against ourselves or others – is there even a way how we can at least reduce those clashes of WORLDS between humans in daily life? 

Before going deeper into this question, let me first give you an example for what I mean with "how WORLDS clash" and how we lack in communication skills:

The other day my sister-in-law came over to our house. First, let me point out that I care about her very much and respect her for doing a fabulous job on being a single mother and raising a cute and wonderful boy.

The other day she had bought a present for our mom for Mother’s Day in all our names, and my husband and I told her we’d pay her our share next time we see each other. On that day though both my husband and I didn’t have any cash at home and we apologized to her, saying we’ll have it ready next time.

„Why am I not surprised?“ was how she commented on that.

The words were out and gone as quick as a cat slides on a slippery floor.

My brain still managed to record it though but left the analysis and the headache for later.

Now, you could look at the comment from different perspectives – from funny, sarcastic, to harmless or thoughtless.

In the end though, after our sister left and my husband and I talked about the evening, we discovered that in our minds we both had recorded the same episode of the night and that we both had been taken aback by the comment. We wondered what made her say that, especially with a slightly bitter tone mixed with a smile as if to camouflage some kind of negative emotion.

Coming back to my theory with our WORLDS and carrying our own stories with us when we are with and around people:

My husband heard the comment through his WORLD – meaning, who HE is, what personality HE has, what history HE has with his family and his sister, and on top of that, how his day at work was.

He felt attacked and utimately hurt by her tiny comment as he wondered what his sister was hinting at: As far as he remembered, he had never borrowed a big amount of money from her, small amounts he had always paid back, and when going out together or going on a family trip he tries to cover most of the expenses.

I on the other hand, don’t have a long history with my sister-in-law but I noticed that my WORLD was thinking that I don’t know anyone who takes his small and big debts as serious as my husband, and that I always see him cover most of the expenses when we go on family trips. Ultimately, I noticed how defensive I felt regarding my husband and sad at the same time for sensing a potential family constellation difficulty rising up on the far horizon.

As for my sister-in-law, I can only come up with random guesses about what went on in her and HER world: Maybe my husband DID forget to give her back her money a couple of times when they were younger or in their twenties and that’s what SHE remembers.

She might have had a bad day and just felt like letting it out in some way.

Sometimes we have expectations on people close to us that they possibly can't live up to, which makes us feel disappointed in them. I still catch myself thinking like that in certain moments and maybe my sister-in-law went through the same thing – having an expectation completely unrelated to the situation simply because you have the urge to release a disappointment that’s been boiling in you for ages.

Who knows?!!?


my two reasons

As an overthinker I’ve thought this over (woohoo) and here is my conclusion. WORLDS clash 24/7 for two reasons:

1) Despite the Internet, phones, social media, afternoon teas, let’s not be fooled - humanity is still in the early stages of development when it comes to communication skills. The things named above are just tools and NOT methods for how to communicate in a kind and efficient way with each other and we seem to mix up tools with methods. 2) people like me who are tiringly sensitive need to grow a thicker skin and not take things too personal.

I’m not a politician, or a scientist, nor am I a philosopher. My blog is probably just being read by a handful of loyal and dear friends, and is surely not comparable to a statement on facebook. This post is not a declaration, so, let’s all relax and not feel offended by my naive, utopianlike dreamy proposal for how we could start having a kinder and more understanding sort of communication between human beings.


my humble proposal

So, what to do about these WORLD clashes?

1) How about we all get more involved in reading, sharing, and listening to spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and Neale Donald Walsch. They teach us how to self-inquire our thoughts that make us suffer and become more aware of them. If more of us started to understand what’s going on in us, and how we can work on ourselves (rather than trying to change others around us) then we could enjoy ourselves and our lives more. We’d not only shake up this world in a positive way but we’d also be passing this way of thinking on to our children and the next generations.


2) A lot of us think that we are good listeners, where, in fact, we are still far, far away from what being a good listener means. Often we are not really following what the other person says. Instead we prepare our next sentence we want to contribute to the conversation. Our reactions are not neutral and our comments are focused on our own stories. These two elements unfortunately end up in the other person derailing from what they originally wanted to share with us.


3) We should learn how to speak to each other with respect and become more aware of how we use language. There are ways we can learn how to be more understanding, how to choose kinder ways to say somthing and still make sure our message comes across and that we are able to limit set the other person in case we feel our rights or feelings are being stepped on.


4) Wouldn’t it be great if all these commiunication methods mentioned above were actually part of every education system all around the world? Just like math is a subject, communication skills should be one too.


What a wonderful world that would be.

For now, all I can do is try to do 1), 2), 3) and be kind to myself while trying to learn these things, and simply spread the word.



Communication skills, Part I

photo exchange

In one of my posts I wrote about how I signed up for gym membership. It’s been four months now and finally I’m starting to see small results – I’ve been building lean muscles and have lost a little weight around my waist, arms and also my legs.

In addition to my regular workout I started a photo exchange with a new friend, who is keen on losing all the kilos she put on over the winter months.

We agreed on taking pictures of everything we eat and drink (if it’s something else than water, tea or coffee), especially when we sin by eating some kind of junk food or by eating late.

This back and forth reporting over the last two months was a genius idea of the friend, as it helped me become aware of WHAT and HOW MUCH I eat. Thanks to our honest reports I detected that I had something sweet almost everyday, that my portions were too big and that I ate too late. For the first time in 20 years or more I became aware of all my bad eating habits.


a text message

Not long ago that friend texted me that she had lost weight and that she is more and more determined to get rid of the kilos.

At the time I still didn’t notice any changes in my body. I would have guessed that at that point some kind of frustration would have kicked in, as in “Why am I not losing weight?”

To my own surprise though I had no thought like that at all. Instead I fully understood - also for the first time in my life – that every body (see what I did there) is different and reacts differently to sports and diet.

I wanted to share these new and exciting thoughts with the friend so I texted her back and saying something like “our cases are different but I love the fact that we are doing this together”. I explained about how long I have not been really kind to my body and how much body fat I need to get rid of in order to feel healthy again. I finished with thanking her for her support.


the next day

Something about my message must have triggered something in the friend as the next morning – after a lot of thinking – she texted me explaining that something was bothering her about my earlier comment.

She thought that what I wrote made her feel like she is putting pressure on me and that it sounds as if I’m trying to justify something by writing that our cases are different. The rest of the text was about why we started the photo exchange in the first place and that she doesn’t expect me to copy her diet style.


I was quite taken back by the serious tone of the message although the friend explained she just wanted to clarify things. She had also added some smileys here and there just to be sure I wouldn’t feel upset.


Nevertheless, the words I read somehow hurt me. More than that, I was so surprised – almost shocked – about how perceptions can cause huge misunderstandings and result in a crack in a friendship that I had to sit down; my heart was beating so fast and I started to hear the sound of a stormy ocean in my ears.


words and their consequences 

Maybe you would have reacted differently. Maybe you would have read it and shrugged it off. Maybe you would have smirked about the smileys and sent her a light funny text back.


I, on the other hand, am quite sensitive and feel like a burned child in these matters. I’ve had quite a number of situations in my life where one conversation affected a relationship to such a degree that it came to an end – either right away or in small waves of drifting away.


Words can hurt. Words have consequences.


I’ve learned that lesson a long time ago through one of my dear friends but come to think of it I’ve never really lived by she taught me.


I- and you-messages

As I was sitting on my bed and was thinking about all the different relationships in my life (with my husband, my mother, my father, my aunt, my co-workers etc.) and how often I have hurt with words, I started to grasp the full meaning of it.


First of all it’s usually HOW we say something that can change everything.


You might have heard of I-messages and You-messages.

In You messages like “You make me so angry because you forgot to give me a ride home” we blame the other person for the situation and judge them. Often the other person will feel defensive and the situation gets worse.


I-messages on the other hand avoid blaming and judging. The above example could be put like this instead: “I feel angry when I am expecting a ride home and I’m forgotten”.


Just by changing the way you say something you are able to get your message across respectfully. Isn’t that a wonderful skill to work on?


don't say anything at all

Then, secondly, I’m wondering if in some cases not saying anything at all is the wiser choice.


I understand that the friend had the urge to clarify things. I know because I have given in to that urge many times myself.

She wanted to say what was on her mind and what bothered her in order to be able to move on. Once she sent off the text she probably felt “refreshed”.

The ball was in my court.


It’s just that I didn’t know that a ball was coming my way in the first place.


Since everything she thought was going on for me was not the case at all I was pretty irritated. I couldn’t help but think of how everything I’d write from now could be misinterpreted again.

Due to all my past experiences I felt stigmatized and suddenly my mind was in Law & Order-Land in the sense of "anything I say and do can and will be used against me".

That’s what I mean with consequences. Though it all starts with the intention of clarifying things you might end up saying things that can’t be taken back.

Once said the other person will start tiptoeing around you because they don’t want to cause a similar situation.

The trouble is though, the harder the person tries not to say the “wrong” thing, the less relaxing the person becomes and that’s when the relationship starts to become “mendokusai” - tiresome - as Japanese people say.

That’s when things eventually fall apart.


These things can happen overnight, or in the blink of a moment. One second everything is lalala and in the next second you notice a shift in moods.

Sometimes you double check if everything is okay and you will hear “Yes, yes! Everything is fine!” but you can sense like an animal that something is off.


I’ve always been the advocate of speaking one’s mind, clarifying things by asking what’s going on or by laying out one’s own feelings about something.


Now, I’m not so sure anymore.


I admire my husband for knowing most of the time when to leave things unmentioned.

I guess he is good at going through all possible scenarios for how the other person might react once HIS words and thoughts are out. He then chooses what scenario he and the other person can live best with and to which degree it has an impact on both their lives.

When it comes to business, timing is also something he takes into consideration. But that’s another topic.

I wished I could take a page from his book.


the ultimate truth though 

I’m wondering though whether the ultimate truth is that no matter how hard I try to work on my communication skills I’ll always attract a situation like the one described at the beginning.

I’ll always subconsciously invite someone into my life, who will confront me with a similar issue.

My vague guess is that it has to do with me.

In order to work on myself the universe is probably sending me these “messengers” so I start thinking about changing my ways and become a better version of myself.


the best thing to do

Am I not clear enough? Not even when I think that I’m being clear?

Am I sending out mixed messages? And if so, why? How?


If the universe was trying to teach me a lesson, what lesson would that be?


The morning I received the text for the rest of the day I had moments of self-blame thinking that I must be so unclear in my actions that I pull misunderstandings towards me on a regular basis.

I was beating myself up for being overly sensitive, even “mendokusai” for telling the friend that I felt a bit hurt and irritated by her message.

I did what I often do – wondering off with my thoughts and trying to understand the mind of the other person rather then staying in my mind and minding my own business.


In the end I came to the conclusion that this episode in my life might have occurred in order for me to accept that I AM who I AM, namely someone sensitive.

And that I have to stand by my opinion and my original first reaction and gut feeling – I shouldn’t feel guilty for being sensitive and telling the friend that I felt hurt by her comments.  


I’ll never be able to find the right communication skills to please everyone around me and avoid any kind of misunderstandings. That’s just not going to happen and I need to accept that.


The only thing I CAN do is to be true to myself, to listen up to what feelings are going on in me and become aware of them.

That’s when I become clear to myself and only then will I be clear for people around me.

That surely won’t guarantee a misunderstanding-free life but I’m pretty sure that it will reduce stressful thoughts in my mind.  



If you are interested in learning more about I- and You-messages, check out this page