Friday, November 14, 2008


People who have something to say sometimes get side-tracked. Maybe they get side-tracked because of they haven't really thought out what they want to say carefully enough. Sometimes they get side-tracked because of the reactions they receive from others.

As a teacher, I occasionally get questions from students during a lecture which send the discussion off on a tangent. Sometimes I let it. Sometimes it gets away from me. And sometimes I have to bring it back around to the topic at hand.

But for me, in talking about adoption, probably the fastest way to get me side-tracked is by telling me how I feel isn't how I should feel.

This is a common communication problem. Constructive communication skills are hard. They require patience and care. I'm not often very good at them. And I'm not alone in this.

I'm taking longer than usual to get to my point, but here it is. When I talk about adoption, when I explain how I feel about adoption, I'm not always looking for an argument. Sometimes, I'm just looking to be heard and acknowledged. I understand that I sometimes say things that may be hard to hear. But I try not to make my feelings general, and assert that all adoptees feel the way I do. But what I feel is real. It matters. And it has to do with adoption, and not with some mental defect that someone thinks I have.

My mom (my first mom) seems to have understood this. Whatever I have said about my feelings about my adoption, she hasn't contradicted me, she hasn't tried to tell me that it was for the best. She simply listened. She acknowledged that I feel that way. (She has gone further and echoed some of my sentiments in her own way.) And I, for my part, haven't tried to make her feel badly for having relinquished me. I'm not mad at her, and I don't want her to feel guilty about her decision, even while I don't like it at all that much. (This sort of cognitive dissonance exists on the other side, too, that while I love my adoptive parents, and I'm glad I have them in my life, I don't like adoption. It's crazy what this does to a person.)

I wonder, now and then, how differently conversations might have gone if I had just felt listened to. I don't expect everyone to feel this way. But the reactions from some people are so incredibly dismissive that it amounts to not listening at all. And when I don't feel listened to, I tend to become more reactionary and polarized, unable to listen to others in return. It's a nasty, vicious cycle.

I try to remind myself of that; I try not to fall into that cycle. I don't often succeed. And I console myself with the fact that they weren't listening to me anyway, so why should I try? But if I'm not going to try, then why bother speak at all? I try to believe that slow, calm repetition of salient points and observations will eventually get through, where snide and nasty won't. But it's hard to believe that in the face of being dismissed out of hand. Still... I try.

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