Counting to ten helps. Sometimes. I had to take a long deep breath before finishing my phone conversation with my 18 year old son. I had called to find out about school and what had happened in his week. Then without being asked, I filled him in on some of the things I had planned. His next comment called for the ten count, ďDad, this is all information I donít need.Ē
Now that statement could mean a lot of different things. One is, I talk too much, an occupational hazard of mine as a teacher who spends most of his time explaining things over and over again hoping that most of my students get it before I have to explain it a few more times.
It could also mean my son was busy and he needed Ė correction - wanted to get off the phone and back to working on his car.
But it could also mean that my son has missed a lesson on politeness. As he put it, ďDad, youíre a story person; Iím a just-the-facts kind of guy.Ē
Fair observation. I teach music, have been involved in drama; I do love stories. Heís just started his first year of college majoring in Mechanical Engineering, so itís easy to see why he viewed part of our conversation as unnecessary information.
Now to the politeness issue. Whether youíre a story person or a ďjust-the-factsĒ kind of guy, you need to be aware of how the other person thinks and how he views the process of sharing information.
The way he said that my information wasnít needed, was a bit rude. I will remind him that when dealing with others, he needs to practice a bit of patience because Iím not the only story person he is going to have to deal with in his life. And if he keeps this up when he gets married, heíll have more trouble on his hands than I could ever dish out. For my part, I need to remember that when Iím talking to him, I need to edit and condense what Iím saying to just what is necessary, unless a story is important to the facts, and the point Iím trying to make.
If story people donít get enough information from the just-the-facts folks, we need to ask questions and draw them out (without launching into a story of our own). Bottom line people, need to focus and put on their detective hats to sift out the important stuff from the details and descriptions. I know this calls for a level of patience that many engineering types (and others) lack, but wouldnít hurt to develop.
So, my hope is that we can work out a code where he can politely ask me for the ďReaderís DigestĒ version when Iím winding up for a Gone with the Wind moment. And when just-the-facts arenít enough for me, I can ask leading questions and give him time to respond.
Now out in the so-called real world, this might be more difficult to apply because of the constraints of deadlines and projects. It wouldnít hurt to be aware of this basic difference in people, but when it comes to improving communications with people we have relationships with, we have to work at removing whatever is getting in the way - too many words, or not enough.
So, when it comes to talking with my son, I can make sure Iím approaching the conversations with the right attitude. And maybe, if I give him just the facts on this, in bullet points, he might, eventually, maybe, get it . . . I hope.
Learning to count to ten in more than one language might be a good idea too.