Thursday, October 4, 2012

day 4: old dogs, new tricks, and the intersection

True story.

I had been watching a particular student's body language during my week of observations and could tell, based on some of the subtle changes in her body language, that something was going on with her.  It so happened that I found myself standing next to her in the hallway and I took note that it was a perfect time to check in with her.  I headed off the conversation with the standard, "How is everything going?"  Her response: "fine." Aaaaannnnd.  Silence.  She looked at me, I looked at her.  and.  nothing.  Within milliseconds, the friend that she had been waiting on appeared and they had both disappeared into the abyss that is a high school hallway during passing period and I hadn't done anything to build that relationship.

I do not love awkward silences, and, well, let's just get this out of the way, I love to hear myself talk.  I think I'm very funny and I'm fairly certain that I'm always right, additionally I'm certain that my insight will always help a person solve their problems.  It has always been my M.O. {mode of operation, I love this asking questions thing!} to strike up a conversation by way of a personal funny story, allowing the development of conversation to rest on the continuation of my stories or on the other person asserting their own stories, questions, or comments.  If I'm gonna be honest here, I have to admit that I'm not really a great conversationalist.

And thus, we return to the failed hallway attempt to be sweeter.  I don't honestly think the poor girl knew how to respond.  She may have been waiting to hear what I was going to say; she's very respectful that way.  She could've been been laughing in her attempt at my feeble attempt.  Maybe she was just counting the minutes until we were no longer sharing the same air.  At any rate, the lesson here is two fold:
  • It's not enough to simply take notice, now I must take interest.
  • This ish is hard.  
The solution to lesson one: start askin' some questions.  The solution for number two: suck it up, the good stuff ain't easy.  

My second attempt at taking an interest came out a little more like a police interrogation, during which I may have appeared only slightly more inept than I did during the blank stare I encountered in my first.  BUT, all was not lost, in every failed attempt there is a new opportunity to succeed, here's what I learned after this go-round:
  • Slow down and listen, asking questions means nothing if I'm not paying attention to how the person is answering.  This is not an archeological dig; every word has the potential to be a precious key into understanding that person.
  • Ask more open ended questions, for goodness sakes, let the poor person give an answer that consists of more than a simple yes or no.
If at first you don't succeed, yada yada yada.  Luckily, the third time was indeed the charm.  And I tell you what, magic happened.  Ok, so maybe without the angels singing and such, but still, it was a proud moment.

I was riding in the car with my particularly handsome potential suitor and because I was taking notice, it became clear that he was, maybe, not overly thrilled with something and grunted something along the lines of "long day" when I inquired. {I'm sure it didn't help that we had to fight traffic twice because I left my phone, especially after I jested about always being prepared for anything ... any who...}  My choices became clear: let the silence be, interrogate, or start talking.  I soaked in the silence.  The cool thing was that as the evening went on and I continued to eloquently pepper the quiet with inquiries {read: stay as far away from the third degree interrogation schtick as possible} and kept the "I" statements to a minimum, the worry lines started to fade off of his face, his posture became a bit more open, and his grunts became whole sentences.  I'll call that a success and I'll gladly pat myself on the back for it.

Old habits die hard, that's for sure, but old dogs can learn new tricks.  Becoming a sweeter person will not happen over night, nor it will I be successful at it on the first try.  There is a leaning curve.  Sometimes, all I can do is look back and learn from what I could've, should've or would've done.  The cool part, though, is that, even when all I can do is look back, it is enough.

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