For years I worked in the next office down from the best college newspaper in the country. Not my opinion, but the collected opinion of hundreds of judges for over thirty years, and attested to by the row after row of regional and national awards. It was an honor to be so close to so many hard working young journalists. Every now and then, someone would stop by to ask a question, to get an opinion for an article, and I would generally say, “You’re just lazy, get out in the campus and find someone who is not next door!” Kinda harsh, and it might backfire on me after all these years, because now that I’ve retired, a reporter is doing a story of my time at the college. Sheesh.
So now it is production day, the interviews are done, and the words have been crammed into paragraphs and the paragraphs into columns, and somehow crafted into page designs. It is production day, communication frozen in time, fixed in ink and paper. For me I must admit I have some fear and trepidation, what have I said? Will I come off as the person I think I am, or the person I truly am? How much is just plain ego, and how much of it is ego just writing about it now? For years I have said that I haven’t much ego left. It got chewed up so many times, frayed at the edges, and tossed out like an old dishrag. Ha, perhaps that’s just the last defense mechanism for a delicate and tender soul. Nah, probably not. Healthy ego, I like the attention.
My wife and I have a continuing discussing about a book she should write. She already has one of the nation’s best textbook on critical thinking. This new book is about the quick, snapshot, characterizations of the communications style of some difficult folks in the hopes of communicating better. The one I’m thinking about now is ‘the Back-to-me’. Lots of people, maybe even most, like to hear things about themselves. Stories told around the dinner table, fun facts shared in the office cubicle, even the encouraging remarks from a friend on the telephone. Sure, it feels nice to hear nice things, but it is also important that you have been seen. The words say, ‘I see you’, and more importantly ‘I see you, face to face’. Being seen is half way to being understood, being understood is acknowledgment that you have mattered. This is very affirming. There isn’t a lot of affirming going around. It is even rare to find even encouragement, which is even easier to give.
I think the ‘back to me’ person has had a lifetime of being overlooked, and perhaps adjusts for this by listening to other people, and then forcing the conversation ‘back to me’, by relating some personal story or another. On the surface it can look like an attempt to connect, but in truth, it ends up steering the conversation ‘back to me’. There is a possibility of structuring all communication styles as the result of some personal wounding. This might be useful in providing the compassion that is necessary for better communication. It is also a little demeaning. Back to me.
So now I ponder this upcoming article, which will be read by the college community that has known me for over forty years. Will they be surprised? Will they be shocked? Or just maybe they will recognize me, and wonder where I have gone.
I’m still here! It’s just that the ‘here’ has changed. And maybe, just maybe, that blogging is just one more attempt to create a ‘virtual here’, a static, digital, ‘back to me’. My head hurts.