Short thoughts on communication

“Curmudgeons are mockers and debunkers. They can’t compromise their standards and can’t manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. Their awareness is a curse.”

There is a part of me that’s a real curmudgeon. Maybe it’s from living too long. Maybe my job in Human Resources dimmed my view of people. Or maybe I was born like this. This year I’ve been working on being nice. Sincere nice. To people! (I’m already super nice to anything on four legs.) It’s a lot of work. *bangs head on table*

An idle comment can spark someone up. Recently I had to get my driver’s license photo taken. We do it every four years here. It’s painful although the equipment they use is much better than it was 30 years ago. Maybe they have some of those fancy apps on it. When my turn came up I made it clear that I wanted a nice photo. My exact words were “How can we do this so I don’t look like an immigrant just off the turnip truck?” (No offense to any immigrant who happens to have a turnip truck.)

I thought that was a nice compromise of normal plus a tad of curmudgeon. The room full of folks waiting thought it was hilarious but the best reaction came from the woman manning the booth. She said (very seriously) I didn’t look like an immigrant and went on to tell me that her grandparents emigrated from Lithuania. From then on it was a waterfall of stories about their experience. I was fascinated since I recently followed the path my own grandparents took to come here.

By the time I left I felt sure I’d be invited over for Christmas Eve (still waiting for invite). The best part is that I didn’t change who I am. I didn’t put on a super perky fake smile (yeah I can do that). I just blathered on like I always do and I got lucky.

New gym is not super friendly. I don’t care. I’m not there to make friends but the time goes faster if there is a small amount of socialization. I’m looking for a sense of friendliness even if it’s just a facade. In fact, facade works best for me. I show up; work out; and spend a few minutes being nice. Easy peasy. No joint vacations or long-winded lunches.

At least 60% of the people there are the same age as I am and retired. (You can tell the old guys. They wear black socks and white hair.) The other 40% are young guys who don’t like to look middle-aged (I use that term loosely) women in the eye. I have worked hard to get eye contact and wish them a “good morning.” Some are reluctant. (Maybe I remind them of their high school principal.) Sometimes I get a broad smile and occasionally a response. (Remember these folks don’t communicate with words. They do it with texts so without a cell phone in my hand, they cannot “talk” to me. I wonder if they do sign language.)

Again, I didn’t have to change who I am although I did have to exert myself pre-coffee. That’s always a crap shoot as I’m a much nicer person afterward. Just ask my cats. And the beloved husband.

Do you have any communication stories to share?

Author’s note: Curmudgeon refers specifically to men but the feminine alternatives are old biddy and the very common “Bee-itch” neither of those work for me! I declaring curmudgeon a gender neutral term!

Thanks to Maxine my alter-ego for illustrating today.

57 thoughts on “Short thoughts on communication

  1. Sometimes just being yourself is best. Some people have a way of seeing through it otherwise. I was surprised someone e didn’t say something when you mentioned the word immigrant. With all the sensitivity in the air these days I’m glad people saw the humor in your words..:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • My area has a heavy immigrant population. During the 80s and 90s many Syrians moved here. Later there was an influx of Hispanics from Caribbean countries. In the early 1900s through 1950s Europeans (including my grandparents) moved here. We are all immigrants. People will continue to migrate to and from countries looking for a better life. That’s what we all want. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be offended by it. New immigrants look like a ragtag bunch because they’ve just left their home and made a long journey with little but the clothes on their back. It’s just the way it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have found that the vast majority of people will respond in kind when smiled at or spoken to in a friendly manner … but you are bang-on about young people, especially boys, being reluctant to meet my eyes. I’m out walking a lot and encounter a lot of young people especially after school. I find a small hand wave works wonders with them and while I don’t always get a wave back, I love the look of surprise on their face 🙂

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  3. I always liked Maxine and found a little of myself in her … or maybe it is the other way around. I have lost most of the tolerance I once had and don’t know if it is growing older or less willing to deal with the nonsense of the world. It is difficult to have a conversation with a younger person sometimes – you get the feeling their “trigger” finger is itching to swipe to the next text, post or meme and not listening to what you are saying. Yikes – you have to wonder where our world is going sometimes. Signed, Another Curmudgeon

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been meaning to get back to you on a comment you made several weeks back when I mentioned in a comment that I was going to experiment at my gym and not wear headphones to see if people would start talking. You were right; it didn’t seem to matter. I still didn’t really get into meaningful conversations with anyone. The most talking that goes on seems to be is the entrance when we arrive or get ready to leave. So I’m back to wearing the headphones and listening to music again. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the only time there is conversation at my gym too. Occasionally there is a “how are you” but it’s not followed by anything meaningful. At least at my gym, people just want to exercise and get on with life. I need headphones.

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  5. Just thinking of my in-person communications today. I had a mall massage. The massage therapist spoke Chinese, so our communication was brief–“Feel okay?” “Yes, thank you.” Sign language, etc.

    I bought a book for my grandson at the local bookstore, and everyone who works there is super nice as are most of their customers. We smiled and chatted as they charged me and I paid. I know some people think the friendliness of clerks is nothing more than good customer relations. I disagree. It may have started that way, but it became a habit and an expectation, and I think everyone enjoys brief friendly exchanges. We didn’t have that in the Philippines in department stores. Filipinos are friendly, but the clerks were usually very young, not well trained, and they may have seen their customers as being from a different world. Vendors at the market were totally different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve wanted to try a mall massage! Being friendly and having short conversations with people not only broadens you (you always learn something new) but it makes the day go faster! We have a farmers market and almost everyone there is friendly although one time I tried to be a donut 5 minutes before official opening time and the woman wouldn’t sell it to me. Rules are rules!

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  6. OH you make me laugh! Very cool about the DMV convo you had. I love when surprises like that happen. Let me know if you get that Christmas Eve invite! 🙂
    I once was printing out some pictures at Target right before they closed because a certain child had forgotten about a certain project that needed done that night and our printer was broken! I was waiting for the printer and noticed the lady was printing off headshots of her child. School project? I said. “Yes!” she replied and went on to say how she didn’t know about it until the last minute and here we found out it was the same project for the same class. What are the chances! 🙂

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  7. I think I must be very much like you in my typical interactions with the public. I’m not sure I WANT to engage, but I feel like maybe I should be a little more open to others, as a public duty. I’ve recently been more willing to smile at strangers, say hello, and just be a little less impatient in lines. I’ve never thought I was rude, but it’s not been my goal to put others at ease. I’m working on that. Sometimes it does feel good to realize I’m not a grump! LOL!

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    • I can’t imagine you being a grump! I like the concept of public duty too. When I am irritated I tell my husband that I’m grumpy and declare that a public service announcement! Gotta find humor in everything.

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  8. I don’t know if it’s because we’re Italian, but most of my family welcomes everyone like family. Even strangers we meet out and about. Which some people might find off-putting. My grandma was known for making friends everywhere. I find that not as many respond to me like they did her back in the olden days. It’s either me, or this new technology where people don’t interact anymore. Probably a little bit of both.

    I love learning about other people’s cultures, like you did with the Lithuanian lady. Once at my yearly mammogram, the technician was from Iran. I had been reading a nonfiction book about women from Iran and she loved that I knew they speak Farsi and not Arabic.

    And there you go . . . a little TMI to in this comment. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Smiling smiling smiling, not even in curmudgeonly way. If you and I went to the same gym, I would smile at you, I would look at you eye to eye; we would probably nodat each other in understanding, and we wouldn’t need any other conversation. I also kind of try to make people look at me Eye 2 Eye. These days it’s a lot more difficult, not just because I’m in middle age but also because everyone is looking down at their phone. So I also shout out hi! Some people look at me as if I just used a bad word toward them. 🧐☺️

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  10. The dogs is getting more Christmas cards than we are. She’s pretty good at passing to chat tails.
    “can’t manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. ” It does take real effort – and even if you try, it seems people are so touchy and joyless these days…you have to be so careful – takes all the lighthearted fun out of quips and small talk.
    And then so many can’t disengage from texting or cell phone for more than a half second…they always seem shocked if a real person in front of them says something to them…deer in the headlights.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sometimes I don’t want tot talk to anyone at the gym, either. That’s usually when a guy starts chatting me up, whether I have headphone son or not. Since I started lip synching to the songs on my playlist, though, it’s mostly stopped. I guess it looks like I’m taking to myself or just strange.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is only one women there that will chat for a few minutes. There are two from my old gym but I rarely see them. Other than that, I am lucky to get a nod. There is one guy I was convinced had some disorder because he would speak out insane sentences. Then I realized he was talking on the phone…too loudly.

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  12. I’ve been told that I’m a charmingly cynical. I can own up to that. I can talk with people and do so of my own free will, but my communication stories revolve more around people who tell me about themselves, rarely interested in me per se. I’m a good listener and people feel comfortable telling me everything. It gets to be a bit much some days.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like charmingly cynical and I can identify with that! I can be a good listener although if it’s too long and something I’m not interested in, I zone out. I’m not good at small talk because I find it all banal. Aside from this year, there is not much to say about the weather. As a blogger, I am always on the lookout for a good story and that helps.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I enjoyed the post, Kate . . . and had to do a bit of research. I found some fun synonyms:

    Synonyms of curmudgeon. bear, bellyacher, complainer, crab, crank, croaker, crosspatch, fusser, griper, grouch, grouser, growler, grumbler, grump, murmurer, mutterer, sourpuss, whiner, malcontent, sorehead.

    And female versions: old biddy, battleaxe, harridan

    To be a curmudgeon, what a great Grinchy trick
    Perfect to counterbalance the jolly in Old St. Nick!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! As long as you are not mean-spirited, it’s a good way to be. I love battleaxe. That’s not too bad. My mother used to call people grousers. I used whiner when I worked for those whiny ones. (I, of course, never considered myself whiny! You have to repeat yourself a few times to qualify for that!) Thanks for your research. I enjoyed your comment (as always!).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Despite being extremely shy in groups, I often try and engage in conversation with strangers, one on one. Sometimes they’re receptive, other times they look at me as though I have 3 heads or something. I truly believe technology has ruined our ability to interact with others.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I decided to be the tree monkeys in one person now … I communicated too much today with a woman at the checkout, till we both saw that we picked the wrong one where only 3 items are allowed DANG!!!! the other line was as long as a highway… but well my ice cream is no longer frozen but we could communicate a lot while waiting there for … 3 years or so…

    Liked by 1 person

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