Hello dear readers,
Today’s topic is a bit sensitive. However, I felt it was important enough to write a big blog about it, and I wanted to do it well, hence the lateness of this post. Aiden and I recently had a misunderstanding about the direction of the podcast we’re writing, and that led to somewhat of a verbal altercation. Don’t worry, everything’s fine and we’re happily back to writing and developing our story. Before we begin, a little background information is necessary, I think.
I have generalized anxiety disorder and ADD. I don’t deal well with unexpected or sudden change. When I’m in stressful situations, I have a very hard time verbalizing, which dials my anxiety up to eleven because I get embarrassed and angry that I can’t say what I mean. I tell you all of these things to explain why I need to always be on the same page as my story partner and to know exactly how things are working.
Aiden has ADHD. Often, he has said that he thought he told me something when in fact he hadn’t. In most circumstances this wouldn’t be a big deal – mostly it’s forgetting to clue me in to funny stories that happened at work or to something a friend texted him. When it’s story-related, I get upset. Not with him, mind. With myself. My brain sends me these nasty thoughts that berate me for not reading his mind and knowing exactly what’s going on in his head. I get embarrassed and frustrated despite knowing my brain is just being a big jerk, and that makes me less than pleasant and even less verbally eloquent.
So, in one corner you have a sweet, well-meaning Aiden who thought he had shared his exciting new ideas and directions for the story with me, now confused and concerned because his wife and writing partner is going a bit nuts. In the other corner you have…me. I’m a bit of a mess, sputtering disjointed sentences, trying not to cry, oscillating between waving my hands and hugging myself tightly, my face flitting through a rainbow of emotions. What does one even do with that?
Now, most partnerships in creative endeavors don’t have arguments like this. We’re a special case – I’m learning how to deal with my emotions, and Aiden’s learning how to communicate with me around his ADHD and my anxieties. But I can guarantee that most partnerships will have disagreements and verbal altercations to some degree or other, and in those moments honest and respectful communication is most important. I speak from experience when I say that a vulnerable, humble attitude will get you both farther than stubbornness and pride.
Aiden and I worked things out little by little. He created space for me to be upset. He knows it’s a part of how I process, and that it’s important for me to work through, though unpleasant. When I was finally able to communicate well, I expressed why I was upset. I felt hurt that he had seemingly made big decisions without me; I felt frustrated because that meant the work I had done up until then needed to be redone; I felt embarrassed because that irrational part of my brain was telling me I should have known this already, and that was making me angry. Then Aiden communicated his perspective. He honestly thought he had told me his new thoughts; the changes hadn’t seemed as big to him; he had a hard time understanding my perspective, and wanted to know more. We took the time to talk it out and came to a place where we both knew what was going on. From there, we talked out our thoughts and ideas, and eventually came to a place of compromise that we were both happy with. And now we’re moving forward.
After all that, we made an agreement. To prevent this sort of thing from happening again, we would hold weekly creative meetings. We would take notes on what we talked about, and if we were ever unsure if we had talked about something, we’d check the notes. If it wasn’t in the notes, we hadn’t talked about it, and that meant we needed to address it in our next meeting. I feel this has been a great communication tool so far, and I’m excited to see how it helps us improve.
As with all things, we’re by no means experts in communication. Well, I’d argue that Aiden is, because he’s wonderfully patient and kind. Despite our best efforts, we’ll likely have more verbal altercations in the future. That’s human nature. But what’s important to me is that we always strive to move beyond that chaotic nature and do our best to purposefully choose empathy and curiosity over pride and selfishness.
Thanks for reading,