I learned a lot over dinner tonight, some of which was surprising but useful and some of which was a bit disappointing but unsurprising. I also found my reactions to it all interestingly positive; it’s been a while since I’ve heard an implicit “Here’s what’s wrong with you/things” session, and today I felt…okay. Good, even curious. Here were things to be tested, verified and improved. Here was a snapshot of the state of the union, as it was. And I wrote things down so I won’t forget.

Problem: It seems like I haven’t made as much progress as needed in terms of improving my “tone” around my family; extrapolating from feedback, I’m getting the sense that something about my tone with them is often abrasive or aggressive. Similarly, it was noted that my tone sometimes has a “superior” feel to it when explaining/teaching.
Thoughts: This is an interesting one. This particular problem is my greatest recurring one, and I thought I’d actually made some progress on said tone and attitude. Now, I do realize that I can’t discount my progress on the basis of the viewpoint of two people. One issue, though, is that I don’t have a way to tell how much of a problem this is. I didn’t record my voice so I can’t recall the tone; the people providing feedback couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the issue was, only that it had to do with tone. The reason I don’t just disregard this feedback is because I’ve recently become more aware of issues arising from misunderstanding tone. So I’ll be doubly careful when speaking with family, and I’ll work harder to be respectful towards all things.

Problem: This is the first I’ve heard of this, that a parent dislikes my tendency to pursue an issue or topic to completion, my tendency to continuously clarify until an understanding is reached. The question posed here was, “Why not wait until tomorrow? Sometimes keeping at it can make things worse.”
Thoughts: While I use the word “dislikes” in the first sentence above, the more accurate meaning is, “is uncomfortable with”. This was a reminder to me that many people are quite uncomfortable with discomfort, with ideas that they’re not familiar with, with ideas that sound like they might run counter to prevailing thought/wisdom. I also saw that it was less important to my family that a problem be resolved, and more important that they be (mentally) comfortable; at consonance. I see that any further initiatives to help my family will be very incremental, where I’ll likely need to have them experience the benefits of a new thing first. I’m getting the sense that in some cases it won’t be worth the investment of time it takes to pursue an issue; and for those issues that require resolution, I’ll have to do something more ingenious, or at least more palatable. I don’t plan to change my inclination towards clarity and understanding; instead, I’ll exercise more restraint in when I choose to pursue ideas. I’m getting the sense that there are a few lessons here around why I might want to start developing skill in persuasion.

This item doesn’t have to do with me directly, but a situation was being discussed involving fathers with anger issues were negatively affecting their family and how said behavior was outrageous/unreasonable (“不象話”), and despite how “不象話” it was, it was a “沒辦法” situation—translated, “nothing to be done” / “one can’t do anything about it.”And I wondered if maybe, there are actually few true “沒辦法” situations—just people who don’t know what to do with their problems.

As much as I learn about myself and human behavior from my family, I’m again reminded that it may not be the most optimal or supportive environment for pursuing my current endeavors. It’s still a great environment to practice crucial conversations and improving my tone/attitude, and I believe that I’ve been taught some important ideas about responsibility and family, but the difficulty remains in separating true wisdom from untested beliefs—perhaps something that I’ll only learn with experience.


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