Trouble communicating clearly in online community

I’m feeling raw and anxious, jittery and and edgy. The tears are welling up from the sadness and anger chasing each other around inside of my head and my heart.

The thoughts are popping and the emotions are hopping all over the place. As usual, way too much is going on in my life all at the same time. Some of what’s going on is probably being in the hypomanic cycle and the affects the weather has on all of my mental/physical health issues. The things that impact the biology of my brain and body, which are totally beyond my control. Then there are the external triggers, the conduits for the pain and injustices in the past that I suppressed and never dealt with, to funnel themselves through, which is all also outside of my initial control.

I’ve got to process and clear away the stuff that’s swirling around and writing it out here is the best way to do it.

Back in May, when the 28 Days to a New Me group was in it’s writing focus, I got back into using the Ku (formerly Heyku) app to do some creative micro writing and pair it with images. Ku is a wonderful community, full of talented, thoughtful, inventive, creative, and unique individuals from all over the world. It was energizing and inspiring to be engaging and writing within this community. Then, I was asked to help organize volunteers for the Themeku project that had been started by another Ku user at the beginning of May. I probably should have declined, with all of the other issues going on in my life and all the other relational conflicts. However, it seemed like a Godsend at the time, and it probably was. I needed a constructive project to take my attention. The problem is that I should have put a limit and boundaries as to how long I would take that role on and what the scope of my involvement would be. However, those would be boundary issues, which, if you’ve been following along for any length of time, we all know I kind of suck at.

There were a lot of participants, the app was being updated because iOS was being updated, and I was juggling custody/parenting time/child support issues, being mom & grandma, living with adult children, reconciling relations with my son, and building relationships within my faith community – all while cycling through the hypomania/depression and fibroflares. A few of the participants volunteered to help me get things done, including the founder and the previous organizer.

One of the strongest participants wound up going through some really intense things herself and, like a number of us, her participation in Ku and with the daily Themeku prompt was one of the best things to use to maintain sanity and have at least one joyful, happy element in her day. When the process glitched and prompts weren’t available at expected times, this person posted some kus that were expressing her feelings of frustration and discontent at the process not working and how it negatively affected her.

In the midst of that, I tried to keep my calm and respond rationally and reasonably. Apparently, I failed, and my responses came across as harsh, unfeeling, and the way I subsequently handled the situation made people pause, fearful of me and how I would react to them speaking frankly about things. All I could see was that I was one person, without the tools and time to really give this thing what it needed. I thought I’d communicated about what was happening in my world enough that the people involved in the actual organizing process and the more active and connected participants had an understanding of what I was juggling. Then add into the mix the fact that there isn’t a single person on Ku who actually KNOWS me as a person. Without prior experience with my personality, character, speech patterns, sense of humor, etc. people are more likely to filter words on the screen completely through their prior programming and attribute whatever their emotional triggers are to the person on the other side of the screen.

Basically, I thought I was communicating one way, others were perceiving it a completely different way, and no one was saying anything to me about it.

Story of my life.

How are people supposed to know they are communicating in hurtful ways if no one calls them on their behavior? How can rifts be repaired if the person who experiences the pain isn’t willing or able to tell the other person what’s wrong, and then stick around to work it through?

I have spent the last 25 years trying to learn how to be a better, healthier, more functional communicator and person all the way around. I know there’s always room for improvement and I’m willing to accept responsibility and take ownership of cleaning up my side of the street. I’ve done the best I can with that. What I want to know is, how can I be held responsible for the perceptions of other people, when they choose to keep those perceptions to themselves or discuss those perceptions with everyone except me?

Also, there it too much “stealth communication” happening. Coded language to say one thing that means something different. Speaking in what feels safe and politically correct ways because we are afraid to have someone turn their displeasure, or rough edged attention our way. Then there’s the “hit and run” way of communicating: blasting one’s reactionary and emotional response to what has been perceived, then abandoning the conversation and putting invisible walls up, refusing to enter into dialogue and work through to a solution and common understanding.

Everybody has difficult times and painful histories. At least everybody I’ve met on or offline. It doesn’t matter how together our lives seem to be from the outside looking in. Degree of talent, wealth or poverty, high intellect or developmentally challenged, gender, faith & religion, age, ability, skin color, cultural background, national origin, politics, vocational background, none of it matters, everybody has painful stuff in their lives. Everyone sees and experiences the world differently from everyone else. Even when we agree on something, we aren’t really agreeing on the same thing, we’re agreeing on our interpretation of that thing, which is always different than the other person’s interpretation of it.

My feelings were hurt when I realized that people had felt they could discuss what was wrong with me with each other, but not ever come to me with the issues and give me the chance to address and resolve them. It hurts me to realize that others were hurt by the way I presented myself and did things and that I didn’t get the chance to know for sure what it was I was doing that caused it, I can only guess. I’m also kind of angry that people think it’s okay and acceptable to discuss amongst themselves the faults and foibles of someone, without ever confronting them, and expect that person to figure out what they’ve done wrong or that they’ve done something wrong.

Unless you’re an X-Man or some other kind of sci-fi superhero, you can’t read minds. I can’t read minds. Nobody can. If I see you face to face and see your eyes, witness your body language, and listen to your inflections and tone of voice, then I can intuit what is on your mind and behind your words. However, it’s been said that 80% of communication is non-verbal. How in the world am I, or anyone else, supposed to know what’s gone wrong with the communication if I’m only working with the ten percent consisting of written words only?


One comment

  1. More like 90% of communication is non-verbal. The text-only communication platform of most blogs and websites is a minefield if you’re trying to communicate a lot of emotional content. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. Just about everyone I know who’s ever been active online has encountered at least one misunderstanding that’s resulted in some sort of emotive “explosion.”

    Sometimes there’s no way to prevent such an event. All you can do once an “explosion” occurs is to explain that you didn’t mean what you said the way it “sounded”. Most of the time, if the person is still willing to dialog with you, the disagreement or misunderstanding can be cleared up.

    Also, as you say, both you and the other person are dealing with a lot in your personal lives right now and how you both process information and your learned patterns of response no doubt are getting in the way.

    In the end, we are all fallible and prone to injustice at times. That’s where God comes in, who is not only infinitely just but infinitely merciful. If anyone can understand what you’re going through, it’s Him. He never misunderstands prayer and always knows what you mean.


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