Living with humans.

Living with people is hard. Even harder when you are introverted, not highly emotive, and overly practical about how to run your life. Even harder when your lifestyle is markedly alternative. But living with people can be handled.

As briefly mentioned last week, we were thinking of moving in with relatives and it fell through. And one of the reasons for it was quite simply that we felt we could not live with them at all. Their lifestyle clashed with ours, but there was a requirement that we merge our lives. And every pressure was put on us to change our own behaviours and accept the behaviours of the people we were moving in with. Which I suppose is fair enough, as they were there first. But neither Jon nor I are ready to change our lives so dramatically for anything or anyone. And the levels of drama were, quite frankly, massively above what we can tolerate, which, incidentally, is “as close to zero as possible”. So why try at all? Quite simply, we didn’t actually expect to have to change so much.

You see, we comfortably “live” with a couple we’re friends with semi regularly. We’ve had sleepovers, shared hotels, and our last holiday involved a solid week of houseshare. And although even arranging a single visit or day with the relatives was a nightmare, somehow living for a week with our friends was easy. We could do basic housework, arrange meals together, go places and even schedule my work and medical emergencies and shopping, all without a single falling out. So what gives? Why can we do that with them, but not our own family?

The core difference actually comes down to independence versus agreeability. Jon and I both have a strong desire to be independent, both as individuals and as a couple. So we aim to do as much as we can on our own. We also would rather things got done than did not, so we’re both agreeable as long as the work that needs to get done is getting done, but not at all agreeable when delays occur. And our friends are very much the same. They want to do their own thing and they want to do it in peace. So even though we were living together and doing things together, ultimately we were still operating as individuals and we were agreeable so as to enable all of us to continue operating as individuals.

Meanwhile, the main sources of conflict with the family were based around dependence and a need for agreeability beyond comfort. They were demanding to be informed of every aspect of our lives, insisting on helping us rather than letting us hire someone to do work, and getting upset whenever we chose to do something on our own. They were essentially demanding a merge of lives, a loss of independence to us. Share the dogs, let them take care of XYZ, put their needs first. And being highly emotive people, whenever we sought independence over communialism, they became upset. So rather than focusing on a problem, such as the dog needing somewhere to stay but them being unable to keep up their promises, or the solution, such as finding someone else to take care of her, we were expected to first and foremost focus on how we hurt their feelings throughout the situation. In other words, we were expected to be dependent on them and to be agreeable towards them. It was the complete opposite of our relationship with our friends.

I’m sure many people are happy to live with people who they are dependent on and agreeable towards. But ultimately, to avoid drama, you and the people you live with need to agree on your levels of interdependence and agreeability. Whether you want to lead completely isolated lives under the same roof or whether one of you will be completely dependent, you need to agree on that. And whether you want to handle everything bluntly or whether you need people to be sensitive to your emotions, you need to agree on that.

People can live together when they lead completely different lives. They cannot live together when their socializing patterns are completely different.

Let that be a lesson to all: before living with people, discuss dependence levels and how agreeable you need to be to each other. Because drama doesn’t come from disagreements, conflicting beliefs or busy lives. Drama comes from differing neediness.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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How To… tell you’re rambling.

In the vein of last week’s How To… on communicating clearly, I’d like to elaborate on an area.

When we want to communicate clearly and show ourselves to be decisive, confident and sufficient, we need to keep our speech very concise. However this doesn’t actually come naturally to everyone. It doesn’t to me, for example. Sometimes we need to bear in mind a few things when we’re trying to be to the point.

1: The content.

First of all, be careful and consider the content. Ask yourself…

What am I talking about?

Who is concerned?

When and where does it take place?

Why am I talking about it?

Anything above and beyond answering those four questions is too much. Sometimes it will take a lot to answer them, but generally most conversations and exchanges are a few sentences short. The rest is filler.

2: The grammar.

When reading I’m sure you spot uncomfortable repetition of words, very long or abrupt sentences and phrases that seem out of place. Bear this in mind when speaking and stick to clearly and simply composed sentences:

Subject (Who) before verb (What) before object (To Whom).

Cluster adverbs (How, Where, When, Why) at the start or end of the sentence.

List How before Where and When and Why either before them all or after them all.

3: The delivery.

Make sure the relevant parties are listening before you start.

Make sure you are easily heard and everyone knows what you’re talking about.

Ask for questions at the end of your statement.

4: The mental and emotional state.

When you are in an emotionally or mentally vulnerable state you will ramble more.

When you’ve been drinking, when your hormones shift, when you’re overtired or hungry or angry you will talk far more. Check yourself and try and speak as little as possible when you’re in these states.

5: The traps.

Finally, there are some conversational traps we all fall into that lead to rambling without noticing.

Repetition. When the other party keeps rambling and repeating themselves we can start repeating ourselves also. Make sure you are clearly heard and understood. Do not respond to repetition.

Loops. When there isn’t much to say or no agreement is reached, a loop can start where nothing new is added but the discussion keeps going. End or postpone the argument.

Digression. When we get sidetracked and carry on down the side track instead of the main argument. Keep focused and keep anecdotes, references and comments brief, without expansion.

Lack of structure. If there is no structure to our statements, speech or writing, then rambling will occur. Plan a layout in your head and try and stick to it.

Too much structure. If you plan the conversation in detail, the second you get sidetracked you may as well have no plan. Plan only your main points and order and stick to them both.

And that’s how to tell if you’re starting to ramble and a few tips for keeping it at least manageable.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… economize language and not express neediness.

A common feature of modern human speech is obvious neediness. Perhaps because of the pervasive culture of offense we live in, perhaps because of the steady insecurity that comes with editing and revising emails and comments online, perhaps it’s simply because we communicate more and feel more and more intimidated by the people around us.

Whatever the reason, most people communicate in a way that is needy, insecure and desperate for approval. And this isn’t healthy. We shouldn’t always speak and write as though the audience could sentence us to death.

1: Start with the basics.

Don’t try and build up or lead up to everything you say. Don’t pad it. Consider the difference:

“I am sorry to bother you right now and I know you’re busy and I don’t know if you can help. But I just wanted to ask whether you had a few minutes to help me move the bookshelf so I can clean and repaint the wall behind. I don’t want to be a bother but it really needs doing and the shelf is so heavy. I won’t need you to move it back, I can walk it in myself, but I’m scared of it tipping when I move it out.”

“I know you’re busy, but if you have a minute today could you help me move the bookshelf so I can get behind it. I can move it back on my own. Thanks.”

Which one is clearer about your intent? Which one is more likely to be listened to? Which one would make you an uncomfortable recipient? Which one makes you sound whiny and needy?

2: Identify the basics.

If you don’t know what the basics are, ask the following questions:

Who? The friend and you.

What? Move the shelf.

When? Today.

How long? A few minutes.

Why? So you can clean behind it.

All other details are irrelevant. Likewise for any other situation. Don’t say more than you need to be clear and concise.

3: Extra information.

Sometimes a situation is emotional or a person is involved and they would like to know more about it.

If the situation is an emotional one, then add an acknowledgement of their feelings or a mention of yours. You still don’t need to go on about it, justify your feelings or anything of the sort. Just explain as simply as possible and leave it at that. Compare:

“I’m so sorry and I’m sure you’re angry at me and I wish you weren’t. There isn’t anything I can do and I don’t want this to come between us or hurt you. Please forgive me.”

“I know you’re angry, and I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

If the situation is one where they’re very involved they may want more details. But even so, these details only need to be mentioned, not explored and repeated. Compare:

“I was thinking we should repaint the walls in green, the same as the kitchen, we have a bucket left and everything should go with it. But perhaps blue would work as well, only the curtains don’t quite match. What do you think?”

“I’m torn between the green we used in the kitchen and a blue. We still have some green. What do you think?”

Even when elaborating or emoting, you can be clear and concise and eliminate neediness or anxiety.

4: Wait for questions.

If anyone wants more details, generally they will ask. Offloading everything you know about something won’t give them the information they need, it will just confuse them and make you seem nervous, needy and insecure. Compare:

“Sorry I’m late, but I ran into Sam. We got caught up talking about the elections and our favourite show. Apparently the show will be very good this season and I’m really looking forward to it, if you can let me have the TV to myself on Sunday. We just stood there and talked and before I knew it we had been there for two hours. I tried to leave but Sam just kept talking so I stayed a bit longer.”

“Sorry I’m late, I ran into Sam and we had a chat. By the way, my favourite show is back on Sunday and I’d like the TV to myself if possible.”

Then, perhaps the person you’re apologizing to will question the three or more hours you were missing. And you can explain after that “I got caught up, I noticed after two hours but it was hard to leave.” But preempting someone’s questions could annoy them and leave them without the information they actually want.

5: Emotions and offense.

A big reason why we overwork our words is because we want to elicit or prevent a specific response. And we get so caught up in it that, even when it would have been possible, we can make it worse.

The first step to tackling this problem is to acknowledge that emotions are unreasonable and therefore, no matter how much information or of your own emotions you throw at them, some people will feel differently, some people will be offended and some people will overreact. Nothing you do will ever stop someone from feeling.

However, when someone is open to change and reason, often a little goes a long way.

Don’t assume you know exactly what they’re feeling. Ask.

Don’t try and argue against their emotions.

Don’t get caught up in a battle over who got offended or hurt.

Compare:

“Person1: I am angry that you said that.

Person2: You can’t be angry. That’s not at all justified. What is there to be angry about? I’m unhappy, but there’s no reason to be angry.”

“Person1: I am angry that you said that.

Person2: There’s no reason to feel that way.

Person1: Well I do and it’s your fault.

Person2: How is it my fault?”

“Person1: I am angry that you said that.

Person2: That’s how you feel. That’s fine but it doesn’t concern me.”

In all three cases person1 is looking for a response and person2 feels that the anger is over the top and an apology isn’t warranted. However only in the third example does person2 achieve what they want: end the conversation having made their side clear.

6: Stop yourself.

When you catch yourself getting caught in an argument, going on and on or expanding on something endlessly, you need to stop.

Stop talking. Take a deep breath. Think of the most concise way to sum up your point and finish on a summary. You don’t need to finish the ramble first!

7: Move on.

Sometimes a remark may fall awkwardly, or something may need justifying. If you’re making yourself uncomfortable and trying to talk your way out of awkwardness, don’t carry on, just stop and change the subject.

Awkwardness only gets worse the more you speak or justify. By stopping you make the moment less memorable and by moving on you can make yourself comfortable again.

8: Use plain words.

People use all sorts of euphemisms and fancy terms when they feel they are in society that’s too polite for common language.

But every layer of higher language, euphemisms and extra description you add makes it harder for you to be understood, meaning you need to talk more to explain what you were saying. Being vague when giving commands isn’t the same as delegating. Compare:

“Would you let the dog out through the conservatory into the small garden for a moment?”

“Please let the dog out in the back garden.”

“I need something starchy and sweet, some greens to go with it and please be back before five or we won’t have anything to eat.”

“Bring sweet potatoes, some greens and be back before five for dinner.”

You don’t need to use complicated language, euphemisms or vagueness to make yourself sound more distinguished.

9: Think rather than feel.

This starts just as how you express yourself. Thoughts and statements need less justification than feelings and opinions. So swap…

“I feel…” for “I think…”

“In my opinion…” for “I find…”

“I believe…” for “As far as I’m aware…”

Essentially, step everything up in terms of certainty and clarity. Communicate what you know and understand above what you feel.

After a while you will also start thinking in terms of what is certain and clear, rather than in terms of what you feel and sense. By doing this you make your communication clearer.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with explaining… when asked, feeling… when it doesn’t run your mind, or expanding… when the information is necessary.

But if you can economize your language just a little bit and make yourself just a bit clearer, more secure and more decisive, then you will come across as more secure, more confident, more reliable and more sensible.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!