On speaking clearly

I’ve changed jobs again recently (hence the lack of posts – life got rilly rilly busy there for a bit).
Fortunately there have been a few moments of clarity in amongst the chaos. Yoga, swimming and a couple of ‘introvert party nights’ at home with my books have helped immensely and led to these ramblings.

I’m a corporate communicator by profession, so it goes without saying that I find words, people, and the ways in which people deliver their words utterly fascinating.
One thing I’ve been mulling over recently is the fact that people tend to assume they’ve been understood, when sometimes this isn’t the case. I’m talking about every kind of interaction here: at the pub with your mates, at home with the kids, round the water cooler and in the boardroom.

A poignant example from my childhood springs to mind. When I was about nine years old I remember my Dad taking my younger brother and I aside. He told us that Mum felt taken for granted and that we all needed stop taking her for granted. Wide eyed and horrified my brother and I agreed to stop doing that immediately. And that was the end of our ‘chat’. Dad returned to his book and we kept on playing. The main thing I remember taking away from the conversation was that I understood it perfectly. Mum was upset and it was because of us. I had no comprehension of what ‘taking Mum for granted’ looked like but, being a Type-A overachieving child, I took it upon myself to do the opposite. I went out of my way to appreciate the hell out of her after that. I thought for hours about how much I appreciated her and said things like ‘Isn’t Mum so cool?’ to my bewildered little brother at least once a day, because I wanted to be Helpful and Appreciative. I think I even drew Mum a dorky picture or something. At any rate it was clear in my little mind that we were absolutely, without a doubt, not taking her for granted anymore. Except we were: when Dad told us off a few weeks later for the same thing I was devastated (sensitive kid, if you hadn’t already gathered).

And herein lies the challenge of communication. You need to check for understanding – your audience’s interpretation of your words can be wildly different to your own. I used that childhood anecdote not to critique my parents (who are lovely and I do not take for granted, especially when I remember stuff like this!) but to highlight how the best-intentioned conversations can go terribly wrong.
When Dad spoke to us, two specific pieces of information were missing: what taking Mum for granted looked like, and what not doing that looked like. Be specific about what’s currently happening and what needs to be different in future and you’ll get better outcomes in most conversations.

I’m guessing the outcome Dad (and Mum!) wanted was for us to pick up after ourselves more – and at the very least thank Mum more when she did do stuff for us. We got there eventually. The older I get the more I reflect on these things.
But at any rate, knowing exactly what you want out of any conversation helps you get straight to the point.

That’s all for today’s ramblings. I’m keen to hear other people’s anecdotes – tell me about a time you totally misunderstood someone!

Tube-strike musings

There were tube strikes in London for two days of this week. I completely rely on the tube to get from my flat in West London to my office in King’s Cross, North London, so I knew it was going to get tricky.  I was prepared for that. And I’m well aware that coping with slightly-inconvenient-public-transport is definitely up there on the list of First World Problems, so I’m not after sympathy for what followed 😉

I’ve gotta acknowledge that it was a bit of a ball-ache for many people. But one upside of a longer commute is that you get extra headspace from all that standing around wanting to maim people waiting patiently. And I like me some extra headspace, because I can get all self-indulgently introspective a la Angela Chase.   

  1. Sometimes, your plan just sucks.  I attempted to use the London Overground (which was still running) on day one. And I couldn’t get onto a train despite heading to the station early: it was like a mosh pit. So I had to wait for a bus, along with ten million other people. And when I finally got on a bus, it took almost an hour for a journey that usually takes 20 minutes. Coulda been worse, coulda been better.
  2. Being real with yourself and your freaky little neuroses ain’t a bad thing. I work in the rail industry but I really, truly hate a crowded train. I get anxious and tense and I arrive at work a bit wrung out on days that my line’s been busier than usual. If it didn’t take so much longer I would bus from home to work. Oh how I love the London bus! The seating arrangement is designed for people like me who need a protective personal bubble. If you get a window seat it’s very rare that anyone’s going to get all up in your face, unlike the tube where it’s rare if that doesn’t happen. Anyhoo, I digress. On strike day I was actually quite relieved that I ended up having to bus for one leg of the journey, despite it being super-slow. I got a seat. I admired the view over Hyde Park and was able to ignore how packed the bus was. I realised I should have just gotten up extra early to catch the damn bus in the first place. 
  3. Sometimes the things you don’t plan are better. I hadn’t planned on the 4km walk from the bus stop on Bond Street to King’s Cross.  It was a beautiful morning and it was a really nice walk. And I was wearing flat boots! #win
  4. Exploring is fun. I’ve lived in London for 4 years and had never wandered the back streets of Fitzrovia. I liked the area. I saw some cute cafes. I want to go back and check them out. Once I’d realised I was already hella late I slowed down the pace and enjoy ed my morning walk. I noticed other Londoners moving around me in 2 modes: Sweaty Panicked Jog or the Laidback Stroll of someone who’s decided not to get stressed. Screw stress.
  5. A change in routine can be a good thing. I was prepared for day two of the strikes. I got up stupidly early and was at work by 8am. Funnily enough I had a really productive day at work and an even more productive evening working on a few projects at home. Probably because I got home earlier than usual and was feeling good about myself for having a productive day at work.

So that’s how I felt about the first wave of tube-strikes: they were inconvenient but I enjoyed the extra headspace and the change in routine.

New beginnings and old ones revisited

Why hey there, good lookin’. It’s been almost two years since my last foray into blogging and I’m not entirely sure why I stopped in the first place. Life just got in the way, I guess. It’s been a pretty fun ride though. Lessons learned, countries explored, friendships forged, attitudes changed and a healthier lifestyle to boot. Then there was the whole moving-house-as-I-started-a-new-job debacle which happened exactly twice in the past two years (I really do suck at timing). But the good thing is that now life has some semblance of order to it, I’m ready to write again. Here’s to new experiences and old ones revisited. Here’s to getting longer in the tooth and realising how much fun there is still to be had. And here’s a pretty sunset photo I took yesterday.

Just coz I can.

Sunset on Goldhawk Road

Random aside: I’ve downloaded some really great music this week and have noticed it’s influencing my mood and my writing. So I’m going to include a tune that I’m listening to that’s made me happy, at the bottom of each post. This post was brought to you by ‘The Mess’ by The Naked and Famous. The music and beat of this tune really lift my mood although when I stopped to listen properly to the lyrics, they’re a bit darker than I’m currently feeling!