Dear Africana Woman,
It has come to my attention that I am not a great communicator. Sure I can string words together on a paper to make a comprehensive sentence. And yet as soon as I open my mouth everything I want to say gets lost in translation.
Take exhibit A. Gardener issues again. Remember how I did not have a gardener for more than a month. Then it started raining Gardeners and I blew through 3. The first I found sleeping on the job. The second would get pissant drunk as soon as he had money in his hands and would proceed to skip work for some days after. Now I have a young chap who is great at his work and yet has no sense of time. From the get go I said to him your hours are 7:30 – 17hrs. Dude rocks up repeatedly between 8:45 – 9:30. Forgive me, but here we say, Kwaliba? (Is there such a thing). If you know anything about tending to a garden you would know that the cooler hours being early morning and late afternoon are the best times to water the garden. Where as at high noon the water will evaporate. I have spoken to him repeatedly about his tardiness. He repents and swears to change. The said change lasts for a day then we are right back to the nonsense. Oh and I forgot to mention that he is the first to leave at 17hrs on the dot. Hmmm. As a leader one must ask yourself, how am I contributing to this situation? Have I given him enough tools to be here on time. One of the terms of agreement when we were negotiating that he come work here is that I provide a bicycle. I did. Which is why my heart throbs each time I see him ride into the yard at 9:40. I have been told that I am too nice. Had it been just a good five years ago that is not what anyone would have described me as. Nice. What would you do in this situation? How would you communicate to the young man that his behavior is unacceptable?
Exhibit B. I received a phone call today where an acquaintance was explaining to me a certain decision they had made in regards to a common group we belong to. This call was for 7minutes 26 seconds of which I spoke for about 1 minute. When I listened and heard the reasoning, I explained that I had a different experience and wondered why there was a discrepancy. However, that was the situation and I accepted the decision. Unfortunately, when I tried to speak I was met with interruptions and so much antagony. In the moment it took me back because if I had just been allowed to finish my sentence said acquaintance would have learned that I agreed with them. In that moment I chose the path of least resistance and kept quiet.
Exhibit C. The dreaded Family Whatsapp Group. I am not successful at these at all. AT ALL. As I think about it many a family group have been created in the wake of someone passing and the guilt of not being close to family is too overbearing. So some brave soul decides to open a whatsapp group and call it a family group. In my case its been a case of strangers being flung together just like being forced to play on the same team with the weakest links in a school yard. My problem with these groups is that they do not actually cultivate community because there is an intentionality about how you go about doing that. Instead they just expect you to all get along automatically just because of similar DNA. What happened? Hmmm In one group I asked for boundaries to be set in terms of the type of content being shared. One member decided to continue spamming the group so I left. Another group, well ... there is always that crazy relative (yours truly) but this time it wasn’t me. This person just starts kafwafwa and everyone sits in silence choosing not to take a side but just watch penalties being kicked left and right between the parties fighting. Elo if its elders fighting you just sit and watch. That’s how an admin booted us spectators out LOLLEST. The last group I was in I was totally the crazy relative. It was like the build up of a dung ball due to unresolved trauma and situations. I went mad. Then left the group. Then a relative recently reached out to me to invite me to join anotha family group. Chineke! In my head I was thinking, I am sure you have been told I am mad. I am not the target market for Family whatsapp Groups. It is not my portion. On a more serious note, I did actually consider the thought of joining and then I observed my bodies reaction. My heart felt constricted, I was taking short breaths. It was a clear no because I am not yet in a space where I am not triggered. It took me one minute to check in with my body. Then I replied by declining very politely.
Can I just point out that communication in African homes is not one of our strongest suits. Everything from children should be seen and not heard. To Elders are always correct and cannot be challenged. To men are the head of the household so even if they are broken and toxic everyone should cower in his presence. Or the levels of respect granted to some members of the family because of their marital status or lack thereof. I mean, I once called my cousin's wife by her first name and she bit my head off. To not being taught how to resolve conflict when it does occur in the house. Everyone just pretends it never happened and ‘moves on’. All of these dynamics are thrown into a whatsapp group. You people have never really communicated before but you think you will be successful in a digital space where so much is left up to misinterpretation especially when typed. I mean bless your souls for even stepping into that landmine.
I want to also clarify, that as is in Exhibit B often we have to learn how to distinguish when someone is projecting their insecurities on you. It has nothing to do with you. Therefore, it serves you no purpose to sink to their level and meet their antagonistic energy. Let it go. Come back to it later if you feel you must, but do not hold onto animosity and angst because you feel mistreated. It had nothing to do with you.
Whereas, Exhibit A is about being clear on the boundaries you have set. When you set boundaries especially personal ones, the people around you want to test you. It's like really young kids; they know that they should not push the milk bottle off the table. But they will have one hand pushing the milk bottle off the table whilst both eyes are on you just to see how you will react. Will you go through with whatever consequence you had explained to them or will you let it slide. And if you let it slide then they will come up with a wide range of things to see what they can get away with. Setting personal boundaries only works when you follow through with protecting them. So for one tardy gardener I instructed him to go home for a week and he can try coming on time again the following week. If he fails to do so then he has chosen to part ways with our organization. The man was spooked. Still waiting to see what his choice will be. My coach says that often people who are not meant to be in your business, will fire themselves just by their actions.
That said in Exhibit C please educate yourself on healthy conflict resolution as a bare minimum measure on how to protect yourself. Just so you know, I learned this about myself, when you back me up in a corner, I will go for the jugular. Never mind that the setting is somewhere classy honey all I will see is a bull ring. There are no rules in there but survival of the fittest. Because I know this, I choose to keep quiet most of the time. Not because I am Nice. It’s because I am scared FOR you. So its better I don’t even put myself into compromising environments that are just meant to test me like a family whatsapp group. It’s better I tell you to leave the premises rather than me popping off on you. That's just who I am Zero or a Hundred. No in between. That’s why if you see me retract, that’s me trying to preserve what we already have. I know this makes me sound terrible. I am also human. Clearly Spirit is still working on my communication skills. Pray for me.
Please share some of your tips on communication and conflict resolution best practices. I really want to learn on this one. Drop your thoughts in the comments. Okie dokie. I am going to sign off. Welcome to all the new readers. Make sure you subscribe so as you get a direct love letter. If you have been rocking with me for a while please share the blog with at least one person. Help me spread the word. I appreciate you. Africana Woman is a blog, podcast and community. Make use of it all. You can also catch me on Instagram at ChulubyDesign. Remember, in my heart of hearts I want you to love yourself, flaws n all, and attract the life that you truly desire. Day 5 complete. #30DaysWriting