“Laura, hurry up! It’s already 7:20 a.m, we are going to be late! Oh, right, by the way, we need to pick up grandpa to hospital today,” my mum said to me, pressing tons of make-up cream randomly on her face in front of the mirror.
I frowned, “Grandpa?”
Immediately, I calculated the time it would take for us to drive to grandpa’s house, pick up the old man, head towards the hospital, and finally arrive at my school – at least one hour. I would undoubtedly be late.
…S***. This is the first word that popped in into my head.
“Why didn’t you tell me in advance?” I couldn’t help blaming my mum – if she had told me this earlier, we could have organized time much better. Never mind, how could I reorganize the time now? Soon I came up with a perfect solution: taking a taxi that goes straight from school to save me from being late. So, I continued, “If you need to take grandpa then I won’t go with you. I’d rather take a taxi.” Though I had endeavored to restrain my burning anger towards her awful time-management skill, my poignant tone betrayed me; also my voice, harsh like a screaming trumpet, revealed agitation.
Hearing what I had said, my mum, finally, stopped her busy make-up work and gazed on me. Her red eyes and pursed lips were signs she always used to announce: she was about to get angry.
As expected, she started yelling, “Laura, why can’t you even try to pay some respect to our family? To grandpa? Huh? He is my father! Though he is old, and sick, he is my father after all. I CAN'T BELIEVE that you refuse to sit with him in one car, just for 40 minutes! Do you really hate him so much that you can’t stand to sit with him? You really disappoint me. I can’t imagine how you will possibly treat me and your father when you grow up and we get older.” Tears filled up her eyes while she said in a quivering voice, “At that time, there will even be a danger for me to die alone at home because of a small flu, for MY DAUGHTER DOESN’T WANT TO SIT WITH ME IN ONE CAR!”
After hearing these words, I became heartbroken, not only for her rude words, unbearable high pitch, and pungent sarcasm, but also because she arbitrarily shouted at me without even asking what I really meant and perceived me as someone that would disrespect my own, beloved grandpa. I really wanted to explain, but a combination of emotions suffocated me, as if a huge hand was cutting my voice into fragmental pieces of sobs. I couldn’t muster the ability to talk right now.
I slammed the door and rushed out. “Mum definitely perceived my act as a kind of embarrassment or humiliation. She thinks she hit the nail on my head,” I grumbled while wiping the tears.
In the taxi, I took a long, deep breath. Suddenly I felt everything that had happened was so stupid. We just misunderstood each other – however, what’s wrong here? What’s the cause for this misunderstanding?
After replaying the dialogue between us in my mind several times, I found out that during the whole conversation, it was actually our emotion that drove what we said to each other. For example, when I found I might be late, my first instinct was to express my anger by blaming my mum instead of reasonably and calmly stating the existing time-limit problem. Even when I told my mum the decision to go to school myself by taxi, my emotion actually manipulated my language use and tone of voice to sound aggressive. Therefore, I missed my final chance to speak out what I truly meant. I bet this was what also happened to my mother– what we said deviated from what we thought. Consequently, we were both deceived by outside connotations produced out of our mouths, and missed the actual meanings deep inside our mind, leveling up the misunderstanding.
After this thorough consideration, I decided to text mum by WeChat to end the conflict.
“Mum, I’m really sorry about the thing that just happened between us. I want to clarify my meaning. The reason for me to take taxi was not because I don’t like grandpa – I love him more than you could imagine – but because I would be late if we picked grandpa up together. I hope you can understand.” While typing, I sensed an inexplicable wave of anger arose again, which overshadowed my previous calm mood, “However, why couldn’t you ask me about what I truly meant before making judgment? If so, the unpleasant conversation will not even take place!” I scrutinized the content for several times. Finally, sanity told me it was not a suitable time to continue blaming each other. If I sent the last few sentences to mum, it would only make situation worse. I deleted those sentences and changed them to a brief but much more appropriate ending, “Love you, Laura.”
I noticed that when I was texting, it tended to be no longer my emotion but rationality that dominated my language. That’s because we can easily detect the written sentences with inappropriate emotion outburst, judiciously analyze the possible effects it might bring to the conversation, and then decide whether to keep intense language in or modify it. However, for oral conversation, our language is more likely to be our instant sentimental reaction since there is no opportunity to reconsider or delete what we have said once the words instinctively flow out from our mouth. Furthermore, since texting doesn’t have the effects of tone and voice, our expressions appear to be more objective and calm.
How can we make oral communication as effective as the online texting? That may be worth pondering, I believe.
My mum didn’t reply even a sentence to me for the whole day. A weird anxiety haunted me; I was like an erratic ghost while waiting. Wrangling with others, especially with a close person, really caused suffering. In late afternoon after school, I flew home at once. When I was groping the key in the hallway, the door opened. It was my mum inside. She stepped forward and gave me a big hug.
“Laura, I’m really happy that you texted me by WeChat this morning. The reason for me to not text you back is I want to reply to you face to face. You are really good at communicating in text, but I guess both of us need more practice on oral chatting face to face, right?”Hearing her light-hearted words, my nerves finally got relieved; I smiled and then solemnly said, “I believe that we can talk as peacefully in real life as in WeChat.”
Afterwards, both my mum and I agreed to intentionally apply the communicating mode of texting to oral communication. What we decided was to keep a “textbox” in our mind. Every time we experienced a strong emotional turmoil, I would type what I wanted to say in the in-mind textbox to preview my thoughts until I confirm it’s appropriate to “send” it out; otherwise I would modify the sentence. In this way, we could gain some extra time for ourselves to adjust not only the emotional fluctuation but also the impulsive language.
It’s so happy to see this strategy really worked in our future conversation and solved a lot of big long lasting misunderstanding between me and my mum. Actually, not until we made this agreement did I realize there are so many quarrels and fights between us are actually caused by misunderstanding and evitable if we communicate more effectively. The most typical one is the following anecdote. After dinner, as usual, my mum liked to turn on the music using her phone and completely lose herself in those 1980s old songs. However, the sound always distracted me from studying. In common cases, after bearing this annoyance for a while, I would eventually cry out, “OMG! What on earth are you listening to? Shut it up!” However, this time the agreement of “textbox in mind” reminded me: you’d better hold your emotion first and reconsidered whether it is appropriate to “send” this out. Contemplating for a while, I realized my major purpose for this conversation was merely to request peace for my ears; however, influenced by my gloomy mood, what I used to say deviated from my original purpose, creating an illusion that I hated those songs which my mum enjoyed. If your hobby is also reviled by others, what will you think? No wonder our conversations on this topic always ended with her nonchalant reply, “If you don’t like it, put on earplugs.”
This time, I “deleted” my previous wording and “sent” a new version from my textbox, “Mum, could you please put on earphones? It’s a little disturbing when I study.” I mildly asked. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Oh really? I never knew that. I’ll turn it off now.”
To “place a textbox in mind” helps me to change the style from emotion-driven communication to rationality driven communication in oral conversation. It facilitates the efficiency of communication because I can express my thoughts more accurately and calmly, and in this way preventing unnecessary misunderstanding caused by twisted meanings in oral conveyance.