A sudden storm came over a couple of nights ago. The Bear, seated on the lounge, looks around and says “Wouldn’t it be funny if you didn’t unplug the screens in the middle of a storm and they got fried. Where would you be then? But whatever you do, don’t talk on the phone when there’s a storm!”
Huh? I have no idea why you are talking like that, but I suddenly want to pick something heavy up and hit you with it.
The next night, I am cooking on the BBQ gas burner and I am having trouble lighting the flame. I light it, it goes out. I light it, it goes out. About five times. Annoying for me, yes. For the Bear? “Are you going to light that, or are you just going to keep turning it on and off?”
What is the matter with you? I ask crossly. If you want to know what I am doing, or you want me to do something that I am not doing, just ask me. I can’t stand it when you mix criticism and humour like that!
“Well, that just makes you un-Australian!” the Bear replies.
“Are you telling me you don’t like to be sledged?”
You’re only just figuring that out now, after 12 years?????
Enraged, I stalk back inside.
But it gets me thinking. ‘Sledging’ is a pure Australian way of communicating, which combines criticism and humour. Australian sports people are renowned for it, and our cricketers have it down to fine art. Make no mistake, it is a weapon, a passive-aggressive way of scoring a point. Done well, it can put your opponent off their game.
The Bear is a sportsman at heart, an Australian to his core and an Aries to boot, so this is a natural way of communicating for him. His mates think it’s funny, acknowledge the point scored and take every opportunity to do the same back to him. It’s all light-hearted and humorous and no one gets offended.
But when he sledges me, I don’t find it funny. For 2 seconds I am confused – what the? Is he being funny? Is he criticising me? Hang on. He thinks I’m an idiot AND he’s laughing at me! BANG. Look out, now I’m defensive and angry and he’s backing away wondering what the hell happened.
The thing is, sledging is an adversarial way to communicate. It implies that you are in a competitive situation trying to unsettle your opponent. But when that person is not an opponent but your partner, and you are not in a competitive situation but in everyday life, it still has that unsettling effect on the person you are sledging, but it doesn’t win you points.
In an astrological reading I have had done recently, it described me as someone that desires perfect equilibrium. “On the outside, you even look like you have achieved it – but inwardly, it’s another story. This part of you is tuned as tight as the high string on a violin. And spirit gave you some advice before you were born – don’t pluck it. And don’t let anybody else pluck it either.” I had never heard it described in that way before. But it’s true. Harmony is not just something I dream about; it’s something that I consciously work on creating for myself every day. I need it like others need excitement or freedom or respect. Disturbing my equilibrium unnecessarily is not something that should be done for fun.
I described this to the Bear, who snorted. He said he had tried to pluck the string a few times when we were first together, and the results were a little discordant :). I’ll bet.
The thing is, every relationship has to wade through these communication differences. Man/woman, city/country, country of origin, politics, religion, upbringing, communication styles – you name it. If the Bear could blog (!), he would have tales to tell of my communication style, that’s for sure. Lack of transitivity (the inability to apply a concept to a completely different situation), impatient (get to the point already!), linear (what has that got to do with what we were talking about?), overly specific (give me an example) and brutal (lack of tact) are just a few.
What freaks you out about communication in your relationships? Or conversely, how do you freak others out? 🙂