I had an interesting communication moment recently.
Polyfamilies was doing its usual thing of debating everything under the sun (nuclear power and alternative energy, I believe) when someone new to the group commented that she really couldn’t figure out what the group was about. Since it’s ostensibly about polyamory, but in general the members really do talk about everything…. Well, debate about everything, anyway. I explained Why We Are the Way We Are, and went on to comment that maybe we needed to get some Polyamory 101 discussion going, since we did have a lot of newer people on the list who hadn’t spoken up.
I used the term Newbie, which I probably shouldn’t have, even if I meant it benevolently. But what was worse, I assumed that the person who spoke up was new to polyamory. She did not ask for any Polyamory 101 discussions, though some good ones wound up happening. I made the assumption she was wanting them and not asking for them. Turns out the woman had been poly awhile and just wasn’t taking the time to follow the non-poly discussions.
Remember how I always reiterate how one should take people at their words? And how that includes not trying to interpret their words?
There are times when I feel like Alistor Moody (Constant vigilance!) when it comes to even my most casual relationships and communication habits. Like many of my examples here, it was a trivial instance. But’s it’s pretty illustrative of how ingrained trying to interpret or assuming can be.
While I’m all for creating an environment where people want to communicate and feel like it’ll be a good idea, there is a line and a stopping point.
What about you guys? I’m interested to hear your stories. When have you caught yourself interpreting and assuming?