My relationship with my mother is changing. Unfortunately, our communication habits are not. I picked up You’re Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen, in hopes of improving our conversations. It didn’t work out quite the way I planned.
First of all, this is not a book I could read easily or for extended periods of time. It wasn’t that the material was difficult or boring. In fact, the material hit too close to home and there were times when I would read something and just have to put the book down.
Call it denial. This book drags some of the most personal and private emotions I have about communicating with my family in general, and my mother in particular, into the spotlight. And I am not ready to deal with them at the rapid fire pace of the book.
My start and stop progress does not seem to have prevented some of the ideas presented in the book from taking root. I find myself trying to respond to what my mother says, not what she has said in the past in similar situations. I also find myself putting more thought into what I say, so that I understand what my mother is responding to, both the words and the metamessages.
One of the biggest problems I have had is in trying to get my mother to read it. Perhaps, because our relationship is a basically a good and strong one, she doesn’t think we need to improve how we communicate. Our changing roles, however, seem to dictate that our communication styles change as well. In fighting that, it seems likely we will end up fighting each other, which is an ironic outcome for a book that is supposed to improve communications.
This book is not a book that can be read or used in a vacuum. It needs to be shared. The challenge is in discovering how to share it with the person it was intended for, a mother or daughter.