Failed perspective

[audio:Pulse.mp3]

Tune: “Pulse” by Yoko Kanno
Drink: Kokanee
Mood: Stressed out, tired, sleepy, horny

As some of you know, I’ve been corresponding with a girl in Germany for the last few months. The last two months has been very rocky because of the lack of fluid communication. If you’re wondering where this friendship is going, to me, it’s a prelude to something more. Whether it will become more or not is dependent on a few things such as how comfortable she is with herself and whether the trip to see each other is financially viable. Ultimately, this is always an ‘unknown’ because it is unrealistic to think that “it will happen”. There is a much more realistic chance I meet someone much closer in terms of travel viability and of course self-confidence.

Now, as a few of you know already, I really like this girl. However, one massive repeat issue we’ve been having is that I seem to be very incapable of understanding her. Now I have to elaborate on this, so you all know what all of this is about. It’s actually very simple, but it has become very unnecessarily complicated.

One thing I have identified in an MSN conversation I had with this girl today, was that I finally realize that I often misunderstand the purpose in which she expresses herself. She never makes this clear to me ever. Then when the issue of clarity pops up, she insists that it is I that isn’t clear from the start. Now this mind boggles me.

You see, when she talks about things, depending on how she presents it and the timing, I may react to it according to how I interpret it. Here, let me give you all an example:

Let’s say I am the Creative Director of X, Y, Z company and she is one of the Designers in my department. She comes up to me and tells me her dissatisfaction with how the company runs. Now, to me, because of my position in the company, I automatically assume that because of her position, she is not aware of the mechanics of the how the company is being run. Therefore, I tend to educate her because she is a Designer in my department for the company we work for.

However, there lies a problem with me. You see, because I have a senior position in the company, my take is that I would make aware of the things going on inside the company to the staff, BUT from HER perspective, she may not actually be going up to me to vent strictly. To HER, she might actually be looking towards me as her friend and seeking someone to vent to, as well as double up to discuss on how to improve the department. However, because I am her ‘superior’, I am looking at her as the Designer going up to the Creative Director and not the friend going up to her friend. Therefore, I take on a more mentor approach to the situation. Do you see the problem of interpretation? It has to do with how she presents the issue and the timing.

I didn’t figure all of this out until roughly 5.5 hours since our MSN conversation started. Somewhere half way through, she said something that finally made the most sense to me:

“yes, I wanted to discuss it but I was not aiming a solution, I just needed to get some things off my chest”

We went in circles repeatedly trying to figure each other out. I thought she wanted A, B and C, but she really wanted C, D and E. There was the lack of clarity in what she really wanted and because of that, I assumed that all the things I told her about in the that 5.5 hour conversation/argument was about A, B and C. So when she asked me after I told her my thoughts, “Why did you tell me all that?” I got super frustrated, because I thought I was quite clear. However, because she was talking about C, D and E, her views, feelings and thoughts were not completely aligned with mine. Therefore, though we were on roughly the same topic, we were in essence, talking about two completely different things.

Now, because of this clarity issue, time and again, she has called me unfair for treating her this way. Now I realize why she thinks that. If what she expresses is on the same wavelength of how I interpret it, then I would not react the way I did. The way my mind works, is more specific.

I think those whom are born from a Chinese/Asian family, would know what I am talking about with this next thing, which I told her about. One of my philosophies when dealing with issues, is that I deal with one issue at a time in terms of debating it or discussing it. “One equals one, two equals two. When I talk about Red, Orange and Yellow, I am talking about Red Orange and Yellow. I am not talking about Blue. I am not talking about Purple.”

So if you say: “Leeman, I feel upset about this and that. Can you hear me out and maybe talk about it afterward?” I would easily comply. My mentality would completely switch over. If you had said: “Lee, I think we need to talk about something. Can we talk about it together?” For sure! Awesome! I totally encourage that! Or if you had said: “Lee, I want to tell you about my childhood. It wasn’t that fun.” I would have completely reacted in a much more sensitive frame of mind.

It always comes down to clarity of purpose. Like Patrick, he has numerous times met up with me here in this room and just talked about his feelings, then ask questions and questioned himself. What did I do? I sat here and listened, then answered his questions. Then offered a little bit of my own opinion.

I may be frustrated at times on how Patrick looks at his own life, when I compare it to my own and others, but the simple fact is, at the very least, he tries to convey his thoughts to me. I sit here and listen. I treat all of his words in a serious manner, even if I may not agree with some of it. This is the same with Amber. If she clearly conveys her original purpose with me, I would sit here and listen to her, then offer my tidbit later when she asks for it or if I feel I have something to add to it.

That’s all. It really doesn’t need to be so complicated if things were clear from the start.

“Lee, let’s not talk about sexual things tonight.” – Okay! No problem! Hey baby, what’s the matter? What’s bothering you? Tell me.

You know? I just never ran into these sort of problems before. One other thing that bugs me is that she insists that it makes no difference whether we talk on MSN or see each other in person, when communicating our thoughts. I vastly and completely disagree with this and I think most, if not all of you would agree that the ability to see the other person’s expressions, tone of the voice, her mood, her physical reactions, the way she presents her words visually makes up a HUGE factor in fluid communication. There are WAAAAAYYYY less problems when people can see visual expressions, mood and reactions to something you’ve said or that she or he has said. Like even a touch, say Laura and I sat across from each other and I started going off on something. If Laura put one of her hands on my knee, looked at me with a certain expression, I can guarantee you that I would see it in her eyes a relative meaning to what she really wanted to say to me.

Text doesn’t offer any of that. There is no tone, no mood, no visual expression and reaction. It’s just black and white, linear and monotone. Now I would want all my friends to comment here on what they truly think. If you feel that I am in the wrong, go for it, say it. I need all the help I can get, if indeed, I am at fault. If not at fault, suggestions/advice on what I could do about this.

8 thoughts on “Failed perspective

  1. Pink J

    Lee,
    Basically, I am not aware of the details of your relationship or the particular conversations you have between yourself and Amber. Therefore my only opinion is in regards to you only and what I think might help you.

    All communication is cultural — it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages. We do not always communicate the same way from day to day, since factors like context, individual personality, and mood interact with the variety of cultural influences we have internalized that influence our choices. Communication is interactive, so an important influence on its effectiveness is our relationship with others. Do they hear and understand what we are trying to say? Are they listening well? Are we listening well in response? Do their responses show that they understand the words and the meanings behind the words we have chosen? Is the mood positive and receptive? Is there trust between them and us? Are there differences that relate to ineffective communication, divergent goals or interests, or fundamentally different ways of seeing the world? The answers to these questions will give us some clues about the effectiveness of our communication and the ease with which we may be able to move through conflict.

    Non-verbal communication is the single most powerful form of communication. More than voice or even words, nonverbal communication cues you in to what is on another person’s mind. The best communicators in the world are sensitive to emotions and thoughts communicated non-verbally.

    Let’s take a step back from your problem as yours is complex and is too personal. For example:

    You work very hard to make ends meet. You work long hours at your job, and frequently put in over time. Money is tight, but you are making it. Your spouse sees how hard you are working, and in order to do something nice for you, goes out and buys you a new outfit. The clothes are very nice, top of the line, and very expensive.

    This situation has all the potential in the world for a relationship problem. First, the person working very hard is going to find it thoughtless of the spouse to spend their hard earned money on something expensive and frivolous. Instead of being angry they might simply advise their spouse to budget the money and just buy the affordable clothes. The spouse may in turn feel like their efforts to do something special, or give you the best are unappreciated. Neither is right, and neither is wrong. They simply have two different ways of looking at the same situation.

    If you want to mask your feelings or your immediate reaction to information, pay close attention to your nonverbal behavior. You may have your voice and words under control, but your body language including the tiniest facial expressions and movement can give your true thoughts and feelings away. Especially to a skilled reader of nonverbal cues, most of us are really open books.

    Let’s for back to your example of Amber insisting that it makes no difference whether we talk on MSN or see each other in person, when communicating your thoughts. Your logic tells you that she is resisting a form of better non-verbal communication. However, what she might be really saying could be a number of things. Such as:

    – She might feel that every time you do MSN video conferencing that it would lead to a sexual content and she would just like to spend an evening talking. (I’ve had this one happen to me)
    – She might hide the fact she has no makeup on or feeling unpresentable.
    – She might have guests over, be talking with other people or doing something else at the same time and would not want to seem distract.

    These are just examples off the top of my head. What I find is that women generally communicate differently. They communicate in code.

    All communication is important in any relationship. Like most people, I think you are correct in assuming that Amber could be clearer to you when communicating in what she’s looking for in reciprocations. I believe the way you explain and express yourself is extremely thought-out and logical. You’re a very deep minded and professional communicator. That being said, your also a cliché being a styrotypical Asian male. I feel as though your too logical and overly dependent on words.
    Don’t take everything little thing she says for exact word for word face value and try to keep a more open mind.

  2. leeman

    I see that problem – the exact word for word face value, because I have been ‘brought up’ that way to be straightforward. Indeed, I try to read between the lines, but often, it’s really taxing on what’s left of my mental energy. I just want a straightforward conversation. I don’t want to be left guessing. I have enough crap to do on a daily basis. I don’t want to go home to more ‘crap’. If she has something to say, make it clear to me.

    Alas, I can totally understand what you’re saying in your comment and thanks for your insight. It’s wonderful.

  3. James Baker

    Okay, I see you are trying to find logic in something tht cannot be easily solved. I have tried many years.

    But let me comment. Your example of being the “Big Cheese” and your friend being a subordinate is a bit unfair on her part and shows S&M nature of your internal persona (just making light of your scenario). You should put yourself on the same level as all relationship is based on even ground.

    Secondly, I am glad you have seen the light on which your friend wants to vent. In most cases, ladies like to vent out and just need someone to hear them out and not trying to solve their problems (suggested reading. “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”). Mind you I had to read that on one of my rocky relationshipst too. So I am indicating that I am just as prone to these type of issues as well.

    Your other example of how your other friends express themselves in a way you understand. I notice you chose a male friend instead of a female friend.

    Note: men can be direct with each other. So if I called you using an explitive. I am telling you I am really pissed with you and to stay out of my way. That is very direct and you will understand.

    Ladies tend to use a round about way to explain themselves as this is their way to resolve their problems. (now ladies you can correct me if I am wrong but that is what I have found out in the past.)

    So to sum it all up. I would have to say it is not just a cultural difference but difference in sexes and how each sex communicates with one another. You will never get a complete understanding but if your relationship is as strong as you put it, you should both try to find a middle ground to pick up on the queues and step back at times. At best think prior to responding. I have always found that emails or any other types of communication such as MSN where you are not really talking to a person and skew up the message that is being conveyed.

  4. leeman

    Spongey, the purpose is for me to get a different perspective on the issues I am facing, because for me, this is relatively new. Maybe these issues has always been around, even with the girls I’ve been with, but right now, I need to be opened to other angles as well. I trust my friends would have insight, where otherwise, I simply can’t see.

    James, it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the input. Compromise seems to be a big factor.

  5. ariel

    Hey Li
    I think this is just a little wobble. The two of you can either let it affect the way you move from here or accept it for what it is…a simple misunderstanding.

    You ASSUMED and that is the biggest mistake anyone communicating can do. Then there‘s cultural diversity, which naturally creates barriers to communication –I am not saying it’s a problem, I’m saying it may result in misunderstanding, embarrassment, or even conflict.

    So to solve your problem, you will have to find ways to overcome the barriers such as indirectness vs. Directness, your lack of equivalents and non verbal communication. It’s only been a few months and what is happening is normal, you want and probably need to meet, which will iron out a lot of these problems you are experiencing.

    I am going to probably speak out of turn but from reading between the lines .Go for it save (I know it’s difficult in your situation) but the next step is to meet and all will be clearer.

  6. leeman

    Thanks Michelle. I assumed because I couldn’t understand and felt ‘that’ was the reason. Now I know better. I feel like such a noobface. /sighing-at-myself

  7. Leeman,

    (I wrote a huge comment and hit sumbit before I made the image vertical, =( so I am going to have to retype the gist of it)

    If you ask anyone (me in particular) what the secret to relationships are, its communication. Without proper and effective communication, sex, romance, loyalty etc would falter.
    I read a book once called the ‘5 Languages of Love’. It outlines how people express love in different ways. One person may view love as simply spending time because we all know the best gift you can give someone is time. Yet another one may view it as providing material things to one another. They both love each other but they cant express it the way the other partner wants it too, therefore they are unhappy.
    The situation with you and Amber I feel both of you are right at the end of the day.
    Relationships/dating is suppose to make you feel happy and provide good vibes, you dont need ‘crap’ at the end of the day & really she just wants her partner to listen to her and made to feel special.
    After all the written word is pretty awesome, and if you cant convey it to your audience, its moot point. You two only have your words for now until you decide to physically meet.
    You both either have to walk the extra mile to make things blunt and straightforward…or rethink your current status situation.
    Hope it all resolves out. =)

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