(Note:This was a really difficult post for me to write...not physically difficult, because for the most part writing comes easily to me, but emotionally I guess. It's like revealing this deep dark secret and I'm worried about what the people around me are going to think of the secret...)
I know a lot about body language now but that wasn't always the case.
Growing up I literally couldn't read body language or any type of non-verbal cues. It was absoulutely horrible! Something my siblings often say when we're reflecting on the good ol' days is that when I was younger I had an uncanny knack for putting our dad in an even worse mood than he started off in; He'd walk in the door after a long long day at work obviously upset, maybe from losing a patient or for some other reason, and because I couldn't tell that he was upset, I would just charge at him spewing words at a mile a minute. When all he wanted to do was sit down and decompress I'd just keep talking and talking and talking....and as he got more and more irritated it led to the inevitable chorus of "SHUT UP JENNIE" from my entire family. Looking back, I picture myself as a Golden Retriever puppy meets the Energizer bunny...super hyper and all-up-in-your-grill, and I just kept going and going and going... It was not pretty for anyone involved, least of all me. Can you imagine how many friends I had as a kid??...exactly.
As I got older, I'd start to notice some of the more obvious body language cues:
-someone rolling their eyes at you= annoyed
-someone shaking their head at you=annoyed
-someone rubbing their face= annoyed/ at their wits end.
Unfortunately for me, even though I learned that yes, that kid sitting next to me in German class was really annoyed with me, by that time, it was too late to do anything; I had already annoyed him and I had no clue why! It was like I went from living with a blindfold on to living with a pair of horse blinders on. I was still missing half the picture and I didn't know what to do with the half I was seeing. It got to the point where...I didn't want to look around and see the way people were responding to me because I didn't want to see the irritation and not know how to make it go away or to prevent it.
Now, as a 21-year-old college sophomore, the blinders are off (and the contacts are in thank God or I really would be totally blind ;-D) and it's overwhelming...I can see the joy in someone's eyes, the affection in someone's smile, the sadness in the stoop of their shoulders; I can see the good and the bad, but it didn't come easily or cheaply (therapy much?) but after being around people for awhile, it's like I have to recharge. It's draining to have to focus so much of my attention and energy in order to do something that comes naturally and automatically to most people. And I still need to learn what to do with the information I'm getting. A lot of times...I freeze (see the FFF post).
I wish I could say that I'm a regular Cal Lightman and that non-verbal skills are a non-issue for me, but like most aspects of my life, it's a work in progress...
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