I had a root canal today. Well, technically, I had one and a half root canals. One of the two teeth being worked on was uncooperative and I had to be referred to an endodontic specialist. The dentist said it was because I’m special. (assessment) It’s not. (assessment) It’s because there are screws in my jaw that occlude the view. (assertion). At any rate, I spent 3 hours in the dentist chair with the pulling and the pushing and the poking and the piercing. Three hours of drilling and irrigating. Three hours of television I could barely see in my peripheral vision but couldn’t hear because of all the drilling. And apologizing. And the asking “does this hurt?”
You’re wondering why I’m telling you this. Well, I had a lot of time to think. Three hours in fact. And not a lot of time to speak. And yet, I was asked many questions and I had no idea how to communicate. I recognized that the people asking me questions made certain assumptions, not only that I’d know how to communicate my responses but also that they’d know how to interpret them. In general, yes or no questions I answered with a thumbs up. But of course, I was horizontal, so it was technically a thumbs across. Sometimes I couldn’t reach my thumb so I did some eyebrow inflection. I lack a certain amount of follicle dexterity so I felt like I was mumbling.
CONSIDER: When you are in relationship with someone and you are asking questions, are you sure you’re providing a means for a response?
I seemed to work through it ok, but every now and then she seemed to ask me something that was NOT a yes or no question. Something like an essay question.
CONSIDER: When you are in relationship with someone are you listening for an answer, a response, or just waiting for your turn to talk again?
Ninety percent of communication is non verbal unless you’re in a dentist chair and then it’s all of the communication. Frankly I was amazed at how much we were able to connect and express to eachother when we were both committed to mutual understanding.
Eventually, we made it through the appointment and I needed to stop in to Panera to get some lunch. I was in a little bit of a hurry and a lot of discomfort. As I tried to make my way to the door with my takeout bag in hand, I nearly tripped over a girl who was ambling after her father. He said “sorry” to me and I’m pretty sure I glared back. In that nanosecond, a lot of communication was passed. I created a story about a dad and his daughter (I have no idea what their relationship is). I was surprised that I didn’t hold the door open but rather maneuvered past them through the door, even though I usually do. I think that was what I was thinking when I made what I expect was received as a glare and when I did that I caught what I assumed to be a judgment from the dad that I was a rude woman. I’m not a rude woman. I’m a slightly hangry woman with an incomplete root canal in a hurry to get to my own children.
All of that communication happened, mostly in my own head, for about a half a second.
There’s a phrase. It goes like this: Be Kind. You never know what someone else is going through.
I wonder how your interactions would be different if you thought of everyone you meet as having an incomplete root canal. I wonder how your interactions would change if you communicated like you were holding an arsenal of sharp objects and drill bits.