Gran's Apple Butter Blog

January 17, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Remember Your Manners (8IV)

Chapter 8 ~ Remember Your Manners

Although the specifics of good manners are debatable, Gran thought their observance in general is more important than we realize. Not just for the sake of knowing where our napkin goes, which maybe isn’t all that important in the big picture, but because of the patterns and processes and ways of being that develop based on these guidelines.

We become aware of how our actions affect others the same way we notice when we’re chewing with our mouths open. You know, that incredulous stare from the other side of the table, if our parents didn’t get that fully drilled in. How we do what we do shapes how people see us, whether we like it or not, and actions speak louder than words. After all, there’s more to body language than just how you shake hands.

Gran thought the most important reason for learning manners was that this taught sensitivity to others, like a beginner’s class in diplomacy. First and foremost: Pay attention. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, slow down. Hitting speed bumps at full throttle is never recommended.

No matter what, as one friend advised, just show up and be your best self, which may include planning a few defensive maneuvers and remembering that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”  Be respectful – of your differences, each other, and yourself. When in doubt, looking for ways you’re similar is a good place to start. And if you need time or space to process, take it. Everyone will be glad you did.

At the same time, if we’re acting from our center, we may not get as impatient or angry when others do things we find offensive. We’ll be more compassionate and understanding, and we’ll know when to share our needs, to give the other person a chance to meet those needs. If someone chooses not to do that, we have other options. We can s-t-r-e-t-c-h to let go of that need, we can accept their choice, we can take our company elsewhere, or we can stuff our frustration down inside until it reaches the DANGER HIGH EXPLOSIVES level. That, Gran said, is generally counter-productive.

Whatever we do, we want to remember that those who share our lives – especially our youngest companions – are watching us and learning from our choices, helpful and not so helpful. Gran thought that’s why artists often portray children with great big eyes and little bitty ears. They may not listen much, but they watch everything.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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June 28, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Sandbox 101 (6/III)

Filed under: Awareness,Books,Communication,Culture,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Paradigm,Sensitivity,Sunglasses — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 11:04 am

Chapter 6 ~ Sandbox 101 

     Regardless of what color we are, Gran said, getting along was simple. Not easy, but simple. It all came down to communication, first with ourselves, then with everyone around us.

     The trick was realizing that all communication – even with the lady next door – is based on cultural structures, those sunglasses we put on at home base. All our words and waggling eyebrows are meaningless without the agreements we’ve made about what those things mean. Dictionaries help us agree on the definitions, like a big rule book. Yet even that can get tricky, since most words have multiple meanings. What if we’re using #7 and someone thinks we mean #3? And don’t get Gran started on all the connotations…

     It’s a wonder we’re able to communicate at all, she said, much less get anything right, as much room for misunderstandings as there is. To facilitate this, she thought we all needed basic training in communication, conflict resolution and the diplomatic arts. She’d call this class Sandbox 101. The main objectives? Awareness and sensitivity.

     Gran explained that awareness meant not just knowing what I had in my suitcase and how my sunglasses made the world appear, but also remembering that other people were wearing sunglasses, too. Even groups wear them, she said, everything from organizations and businesses to neighborhoods and whole countries. We may be wearing several different pairs and not even realize it. No wonder this gets confusing! But until we realize that our sunglasses are only a pair and not the pair, we’ll never truly see what lies beyond those lenses.

     And what about sensitivity? This can be tricky, Gran said, ‘cause we may be highly sensitive to our own needs, yet completely oblivious to others’. The goal here is to reach a central point from which we can see every side of a situation. And, as my mother taught me: Be polite. In word, in thought, in deed. Remember that while there is a time for making one’s voice heard, there’s also a time for dropping our walls and agendas and just listening – not giving out answers or advice or even sympathy – just listening.

     And sometimes, occasionally, learning. As one of Gran’s favorite writers put it, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”[i] When we do this in the middle of any situation, any conversation – even a heated argument – true growth can come, but only if we let it.

     Of course, Gran didn’t think she understood everything. But she was convinced that the answers to all our questions can be found as long as we keep looking for them. The whole issue of splitting hairs on P’s and Q’s while there is real truth to be found, both out on the high prairie and way down deep inside, was an eternal frustration for her, although she was working on patience and detachment.

     Sure, listening to others with an open mind can feel risky. What if they start making sense? It can also feel scary to speak your truth in these moments. But Gran thought if we could create safe spaces where we could explore our different ideas without fear of what others might say (or throw), there’d be no end to the beauty we’d uncover.

     Like foxfire – almost other-worldly in its beauty, but it’s not an illusion. We just don’t understand it yet.


[i] From The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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