I’m trying to help my 12 year old learn the basics of constructive criticism. This is, it transpires, as hard for me as it is for her because communication between us is, at times, quite difficult. We’re both suffering from differing cases of hormones, subjective social pressures and fatigue. Finding the right moment to discuss things is boiling down to snatched instants when both of us are capable and receptive. It takes two people to learn, after all, and both must listen and think for it to successfully happen. However, this morning’s impromptu brainstorm was as productive for her as it was me… probably me more, as it happens, because instead of miring myself in adjective and example, I simply said what I felt.
This is something I’ve never been good at doing.
The reasons for this are mired in a past where professionally my voice had minimal to zero importance in the workplace. In the end I decided I didn’t care and simply took the pay check: learning to stay silent became a skill that was truly excelled at. Only when I left to have kids did it register that this wasn’t the answer, or indeed a long term solution to anything, and in the following sixteen and a bit years, finally, that voice has been rediscovered. However, early lessons have not been forgotten. Prioritising things can be tough in early mornings and late nights, when additional pockets of stress erupt or appear unexpectedly. You ‘normal’ people just sail through this, and like to point out to those of us struggling how bad we are at communicating our intent. We know. The irony is, at least in part, is that as a defence mechanism I’ve become supremely competent at simply reflecting back what is thrown at me.
Self preservation is a funny thing, when you break it down. I really would love a quiet life but there comes a point where saying nowt serves to amplify the problem. When someone looks to you for answers, it is your duty to at least form an opinion and express it, or else what is the point of being here to begin with? This morning’s lessons were simple: make a point, ensure you’re happy that your perception has been registered, and be ready to have it ignored, acknowledged or embraced, depending on the person you are addressing. After that, being right is not the point. Every opinion is valid, however out there or apparently dumb somebody else might consider it. As long as you can support that with facts, context from your source material, then the floor is yours to hold.
For my daughter, there is pressure apart from school that I am also beginning to grasp. SnapChat groups Group Text chats are everything: where once I only had the playground and a telephone (one conversation at a time) now there are hundreds of multiple discourses happening, all which need to be considered as part of a whole. This is one of the reasons why I refuse to hop on Discords, and why I hate group chat channels. I can’t cope well with more than about three voices, I discovered after many years of Raid Leading. It is simply a skill I don’t possess and it is better left to those with that ability to control and direct. Absolutely my best work comes on a one to one basis, because of the amount of sensory information that gets lost as numbers increase. Knowing this can make Twitter an utter disaster area, as I am still finding to my cost.
How I feel on any given day boils down to how well everything gets shoved into my head during in the first hour. It is why a good breakfast routine has become invaluable in setting me up for the day ahead. Most importantly of all, my confidence grows from an understanding that I no longer need other people to acknowledge my existence. If a mistake is made in someone else’s eyes, I know only too well that I’ll be told. I do my utmost when this happens to ensure that criticism and comment is taken on board but if after careful consideration I believe such comment is unwarranted…? There will be further discussion. Then, of course, there are the moments when your ‘thing’ is so trivial and pointless you wonder why on earth the fuss was made to begin with… and there is life, a series of random interactions. The truth for me, at least right now, is to make sure that every word I spoke can be justified as sound and fair in my own mind.
If I manage that, it truly is a marvellous day indeed.