Michele's Talk about Communication

Today after our storytelling session, Michel Blumberg, our educational and parenting advisor, gave a brief but articulate talk about communication. She defined 'Assumicide' perfectly and suggested the idea of generously giving out the pandemic pass to those in our bubble, and even to those outside out bubble! Here is what she had to say.


Today I want to speak a little bit about communication. It’s a big topic so I am just going to mention a couple of things you may find useful. I extracted these from parenting classes I gave for many years in my county schools. People always told me they were so helpful, both for children and adults- so see if these are useful to you. The ways in which we communicate are wrapped up in many layers, a lot is going on every time we open our mouths so it is good to take a look at our patterns.

I want to give you 3 techniques- two for talking and one for listening, as these are the basic building blocks of communication. I call these 3- “Unexpected Expectations”,  “Committing Assumicide”, and “ Listen Through”.

Ok here we go- Let’s start with Unexpected Expectations- here is something I have observed in myself, my own family and in families I have worked with, see if this sounds familiar. It goes like this- you have an expectation from someone, you fail to tell the person you have that expectation, you don’t get what you expected from them and you get mad, or hurt, or resentful. I think almost everyone has hit this wall at one time or another. And it causes a big mess. Here’s how to work with the expectations dynamic-

  1. Take some time to clearly figure out what you want. It has to be specific, can’t just be- “I want you to be different. Or better…” it needs to be specific- “I want help with the garbage”.
  2. You need to teach the person how to give this to you- “Please make sure the lid is put back on the pail and that this is done by 2 pm today”. This helps the person succeed at what you want.
  3. Be appreciative when you get an expectation met. (All this can apply to virtues as well as chores- “I would like you to talk to your sister nicely, please say excuse me if you interrupt her.”

We all have lots of unexpressed expectations and the cause a lot of trouble. Especially now whether we are locked down in our bubbles, or beginning to emerge into the daylight, which brings me to my second topic, which is related to the first but shows up in a little different way. I call this “Assumicide”.

As the pandemic wears on and different places are in different phases we are going to run into a lot of opportunities for assumicide and unexpected expectations. If we keep that in mind we may be able to head some reactions off at the pass and avoid some emotionally charged situations. Understanding the inner workings of some of our reactions will help us practice mindful speech and listening.

Next I want to mention -“Listen Through”. Here is a situation that can arise in families. Someone comes in the door with a Big Story to tell, maybe something happened on the playground, or at work and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a big drama that you can’t quite figure out. What happened? Who did/ said what?? You are busy trying to follow the story- and that is your big mistake- you are using your intellect to try to figure out something charged with emotion in a situation you were not witness to.

So, stop right there- don’t use your brain to figure this out- Listen Through the storyline to the FEELING that is underneath. If can find that you will have something useful to talk about. “ Oh I understand now! You felt left out!” or ‘You felt angry” or whatever- if you identify the feeling underneath, you can have a useful communication with the person and help them identify their feelings as well. 

So , there you go- we are still in trying and difficult times- for all our efforts we will still make plenty of communication mistakes and there will be plenty of emotions to navigate. For that I say- let’s remember to give folks around us a “Pandemic Pass” when things go sideways, and a little extra space and love.  

All the best,

Michele Blumberg