Thursday, August 7, 2008

When Volcanoes of Silence Explode: Communication Interrupted

I had kind of a sick feeling all day yesterday... I'd like to say its women's intuition, but as I'm male I think that rules out that idea. I was restless. I couldn't concentrate on work very well and I was just kind of moody. I got home and I really wasn't a very pleasant person to be around. I don't know why, but something was bugging me. I did the family stuff though and that lightened my mood some. Spending time with the wife and kids can do a lot to lighten your mood.

I finally got my youngest daughter in bed and then I headed downstairs to pop on the computer. I figured I'd just log in and do a transmute for a friend before I continued on with tucking in my son and remaining daughter. You very quickly get your mood changed when you log in and see a storm of activity.

The first thing that caught my eye was Officer chat... Officer chat is a rarity in our guild because very few things go on behind the scenes. We tend to have a lot of conversations in the open. Officer chat is usually reserved for personal bitching when you don't want to vent all over the guild. So the first words I saw were, "and then Star .....". For those who haven't been following along, I'm called Star in guild. I scrolled up a bit and realized one of our long term members had just quit the guild. This is hard core altoholic who's logged a lot of time in our guild. It was followed by a rapid fire log in and gquit through the rest of their characters.

As you can imagine guild chat erupted. Everyone wanting to know what the hell had happened and of course... these types of quitting are usually followed by a storm of other people quitting too. In this case it wasn't, but most of us were left just standing there scratching our heads going, "What the hell just happened?" I would really like to say I have any clue of what happened. Unfortunately I don't. I do know this guild member personally so I hopped on over to my cell phone and tried to give them a call. No answer. So I get to sit and wait till I see them to find out what happened. Silence ensues.


I've been guilty in the past of doing a lot of stupid things. I am male after all... I think it comes with the picture. Yes I'm picking on us men, but its somewhat a function of how we were raised. Men are taught from a young age to suck it up and just bite their tongues which in most cases is probably the worst thing you can do. We have a tendency to internalize our feelings and make situations worse in our heads than they really are.

One of the keys that I've learned recently is the lesson of communication. My wife's only been trying to beat it into me for 10 years, but hey men are slow or at least this one can be at times. My guild officers can probably relate stories of the times I've exploded at people. Ok generally I have a pretty level head, but when I explode it tends to end up all sorts of shades of ugly and specatular displays. I recently had an explosion at another guild that was probably 10 times worse in my head than the reality of what actually occurred. Its a learning lesson in how not to approach the situation. So my goals from here on out are to approach situations as follows:
  1. If you're upset enough to want to yell/hit/pummel/flame etc, find a safe outlet, express your feelings as loudly and coarsely as you can. Vent it out and then.....
  2. Take a deep breath and organize your thoughts. Make sure the reason your mad and try to figure out what you are feeling and why. Try to verbalize it to yourself.
  3. Approach the person who got you so mad, and tell them your feelings in a calm manner. Try to be as specific as you can using examples.
  4. Allow the person to think and respond. Don't just lay into them relentlessly. They need a chance to internalize what you said and then respond.


Venting is generally there to ensure that whatever your current emotional state, you won't just run into a person and tear their head off. I've been very guilty in the past of internalizing things that made me mad, but I figured I could rise above them and just ignore them. And these types of things build and build until you are wound so tight that your only choice at some point will be to scream and yell and leave someone laying in the dust.

I've personally ripped people a new orifice more than a few of times who didn't deserve it because they happened to be the one person who ticked me off at the instant I was wound so tight as to explode. This has the effect of leaving the person standing there bewildered going, "What the hell just happened?"

When you have little annoyances or big annoyances, find someone (or many people) who you can just go to and talk openly. They aren't there to necessarily judge you, but more to listen to you talk about it. They are an outlet for your frustration. They are there to hear your pain/frustration/hate so you don't just wail off and hit someone. The earlier you can talk to this person, the better off your emotional state may remain. Remember though this person's job isn't to inflame you or add fuel to the fire. Typically your best people for this tend to be very neutral people.

If you need a vent, then use it. If you catch it early enough, you may never need to leverage it and can always skip to step two.

Composing Your Thoughts

One of the next things you need to do is figure out what is bothering you and why it is. I have occasionally in the past taken verbal aggression out on someone who didn't ever deserve it. I one time vented all over my wife over a small item like picking up towels when in reality I was frustrated and angry about being slighted by my boss. My wife took the brunt of that aggression even though she didn't deserve it. One way or another, you need to sit down, analyze your thoughts and feelings and figure out why or who you're mad/frustrated/sad/etc at.

If it helps, try talking out loud to yourself in a quiet area. Try telling someone what you think they need to hear and then listening to how your voice sounds. Try to get to the point where you can make your point in a calm manner. Don't hold back your emotions on the subject. One technique someone shared with me once is to start sentences as follows:

  • When you said X, it made me feel Y.
  • When you do X, it makes me feel like Y.
  • When so and so X, it frustrates me because of _____

So some campy examples:

  • When Joe called me a idiot, it made me feel like he didn't value me. It frustrated me for all of the hard work I've logged trying to down the raid boss.
  • When you assigned Mary to heal the main tank, I felt like you didn't feel my healing was up to snuff. I felt angry that I didn't get the opportunity to heal the tank.
  • When Jacob makes fun of people with disabilities, it makes me extremely mad because my son/daughter/friend/family member has a learning disability.

Its important that you not only share what action/words etc made you feel upset, but also the reasoning behind it and the emotion it evokes in you.

Sharing your Pain

We did an interesting thing at work. We were all attending a class on project management. It was a class on communication and the instructor asked a simple question. "If you were messing up at work, would you want someone to tell you?" Unanimously the answer was yes.

Some people have been faced in their careers/life etc with having someone just out of the blue tell them for the last 6months/year/many years that they have been doing something wrong that they never ever realized was a problem. If someone had told you from the beginning, would you have been able to correct it and save someone lots of pain? Maybe.

Humans need input. If you don't share your frustrations and emotions, how in the hell are we supposed to guess what's going on? Please women, don't use the phrase... "Oh you know what you did!!":) Just assume men are inherently oblivious and help us out OK??? 95%+ of the people in this world are not Empaths (people able to read your emotions) or Psychic.... so if you never tell them, they may never know.

Sitting down to listen

The last thing you need to remember is to give the other person a chance to sit and respond. So many times people make the mistake of telling someone their frustrations and then failing to listen to the other person's response. The person may have had a good reason for doing what they did and you may never know. If someone just cut you off on the Interstate and you told them off and just left, you may never find out that they had a mechanical failure or saw some debris in the road suddenly. So many times we internalize things as a personal attacks that never are.

Just remember to communicate when you've got problems so that other people are at least aware of the issue. Don't make the mistake of assuming people know what went on and what your issues are. Give them the opportunity to fix a situation before it becomes ugly.