Leveraging Frustration With Others

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

A recent Carolyn Hax column provides your (read: my) latest reminder to consider that repeatedly banging one's head against a wall should be more of a prompt than a source of frustration.

A reader notes of his mother's indirect communication style:

... When she wants to make a point, instead of stating it straight-up, she badgers me with leading (or loaded) questions...


I lost it and cried out: "Arrrrrgh! If the answer was yes, I would have said yes, wouldn't I now? What's the point of asking if you don't believe me?" My mother may have gotten somewhere if she had led off with, "I think Jane has someone else because ... " instead of antagonizing me.
Hax's whole answer is worth reading, but the following captures the crux of the matter: ... I wonder what you learned from this incident with your mom.

Image by Vadim Bogulov, via Unsplash, license.
That is, the reader was wondering the wrong thing when he asked about how to get his mother to communicate more directly: He should have asked for tips on how to recognize and cope with his mother's type of ineffective communication style. (It turns out that this includes improving his own communication style!)

Hax congratulates the reader for recognizing how difficult a bad communication style can be for both sides of a conversation, and then gives great advice for improving his own communications and dealing with those times in which others fall short.

As my title indicates, the thing I like most about the piece is that one can harness the repeated failures of others to remind oneself of one's own agency, and thereby achieve self-improvement and some measure of equanimity with those others.

-- CAV

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