Adoption Communications

 In this post, I am the Sender. I am the Initiator of this message. In writing the post, I am encoding it, that is, I am putting the idea into language while adding my own meaning to the words. I am posting it to my blog readers, or Receivers. You as a reader will receive the message and decode it. In the process of decoding it you will internally, privately translate my post into something you understand, by using your knowledge of language and your personal experience. The blog post is travelling to you through written communication channel. You may or may not provide feedback on the post via a blog comment or perhaps personal email to me, both written communication channels. Throughout the entire process, the message is subject to Noise.  In communication, Noise is considered anything that interferes with effective transmission or reception of the message.  There can be physical noise or external noise that is environmental to you. Perhaps while you are reading this, your young child interrupts you causing you to look away or begin another task. Your receipt of this message was interrupted and as such may influence your understanding of it. Other types of noise physiological (maybe you have the flue)  psychological (your own preconceptions and bias towards “someone like me”) and finally, semantic noise.  If I chose words that are confusing or distracting to your reading, that would be semantic noise.

Keep these concepts in mind. Noise is important, in my opinion, when we consider adoption conversations, particularly those that occur online, in written form, with people we have never met before.

Consider the recent comment thread between Daniel, myself, Rich and Janet.  I believe this illustrates challenges with communication and supports my belief that we need to consider these challenges in the conversations we have.

Daniel is not American. By his own words he is an adoptee from Lebanon. He writes very well, but very much rhetorically.  During our conversation, I found myself impressed with his writing (smart people who write well can always hook me) and I was interested in hearing his thoughts. I continued to prod him to explain himself when I did not quite understand. This seemed to frustrate him for in the end, rather than explain himself, again, in a simpler way; he resorts to Arabic slang derogatory terms towards me, Janet and Rich.

I am American. I am a natural mother that surrendered her child to adoption. I am in reunion with a child that wants nothing to do with me or her first family. I am a reform activist and I believe adoption should always be a last resort and even when needed ties to the family of origin should be maintained. I don’t believe in amended birth certificates.  My communication style is one that places understanding high on the list of requirements (or so I like to think). All of these factors and more impact your understanding of my blog posts.

Rich is American.  He is not personally effected by adoption, rather he is collateral damage to another’s experience, mine. Rich is my fiancé.  Rich responds to Daniel with a very American phrase that suggests if he is not part of the solution he is part of this problem. This message could have been completely lost on Daniel or offensive as he is not familiar with Rich or what Americans may mean when they suggest such things. Daniel likely thought from his own perspective he was offering solutions. The fact that I, nor Rich, nor Janet understood what he was saying did not negate the fact that he said it.  Hence, noise.

Janet astutely noted that Daniel was talking in very academic, rhetorical terms that can create confusion.  Daniel may have been doing this on purpose but he may indeed speak like that all the time.  Since none of us know Daniel personally, we cannot know but we make those assumptions based on our own personal experiences (noise). Perhaps someone in our past talked down to us like that. If so, we may be reacting to Daniel’s words from a past experience versus a present one.

I posit that communication challenges like this happen all the time in adoption circles. We are continually influenced by our own personal noise, and holy jeebzuss there is a lot of personal noise in adoption trauma.  If we are not able to identify that, see that what we are offering up or how we are receiving messages is effected by that, we cannot communicate effectively. 

Daniel suggests (or at least I think he does, again, not clear) that Americans and those of us in adoption reform discussions are too politically correct. He suggests that adoptees are told to “play nice” and their voices are squelched in conversations they have with adoptive parents.  I am not disagreeing that is done (although I am not an adoptee or an adoptive parent) but I do disagree that not playing nice is productive to conversation.  Daniel also balks at things like Roberts Rule of Order and that we must have rules on how we will engage. I disagreed here too.

While I agree that those of us that have been torched (not touched) by adoption have a right to be angry and hurt and such, I do question how discussion can be productive if one or more parties to that discussion are permitted to be uncivilized. As I shared in a different post, I tend to avoid people who cannot have a conversation with me without resorting to calling me an abandoning c*nt whore.  I don’t see how that is relevant to changing adoption. I am interested in progress, moving forward, making change, not you showing me how colorful your language can be.

Thoughts? Can we have unemotional discussion on adoption? More importantly, do we even want to, for isn’t the pain, the damage, the emotion of adoption a primary motivator for change? Do we really want to eliminate it from the conversation? How do we keep it without turning off the people we are speaking to?

17 Thoughts.

  1. Point of information: From previous online interactions with Daniel, my recollection is that he grew up in the U.S. and returned to Lebanon as an adult.

    • Psychobabbler – See, there you go! More confusion on communication. I was making incorrect assumptions based on Daniels writing. Only adds to the communications challenges! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Speaking for myself, I cannot imagine being able to discuss adoption without hearing “noise”

    • Joy – I would agree (for myself, not your communications) but again worry that we shut people off when we get overly emotional because they cannot handle our emotions AND that society has taught them that such behavior is wrong in communications AND that their primary socialization taught them to turn away from emotional people. And I KNOW I shut people off that carry on with the abandoning c*nt whore approach. Does anything ever get accomplished – for the better – with nothing but name calling, crying, emotional triggering?

  3. You know, I think so.

    Of course not always, but sometimes. When I was about 15 or so, I went to this large outdoor concert and was hanging out and drinking a beer in one of those red cups you know? I felt I was at the height of sophistication in a way only a 15 year-old drinking in public can.

    In my state of punkrock, I tossed the cup on the ground when I was finished. One of the older boys I was with turned to me and said, “That was really fucking rude” and I felt embarrassed and ashamed and blew it off with a snarky comment.

    But you know that is the last time I littered? It didn’t feel good at the time, but I am glad for the lesson.

    As for communicating with the adoption thing, I think the people who want to hear me can. However I am communicating. I mean sometimes when I see someone lose their cool I look at that part of it, like, oh they are really upset, that is the part I can hear.

    Some people will not be able to hear me no matter how sweet I put it . A lot of times people describe me in a way I don’t recognize at all. Nor do I think anyone who knows me would recognize.

    • Joy – Hmmm, interesting. Thinking more about this. So thank you for your response. I suspect I will continue to go down this path for a bit. Again, not only a student of communications but also someone who values self improvement so this thread topic is very interesting to me for a number of reasons.

  4. Just wrote a blog post about being able to have discussion without insult the other day. I grew up in an Italian family in Chicago. Both encourage heated discussions. There is nothing wrong with showing emotion when discussing adoption (or any other sensitive topic). People are passionate about how they feel, I think that is a good thing, it means they care about what they are saying. There is a HUGE difference between showing passion and emotion through your speech and/or writing and resorting to name calling and personal insult. To me, personal insult comes when a person has run out of ways to defend their position and the only thing they have left to resort to is name calling. They’ve been backed into a corner by your arguments and the only choice they have is to concede and say they can see your point of view, or call you a nasty, evil name. Unfortunately, in our society, admitting one was wrong, or that there are other sides to a topic that are valid, gets mixed up with our pride and resorting to name calling is a way to save face, if you will.

    Personally, I love debates, hate attacks!

    • Laurie – I agree as well. Sadly, too often, that is what adoption conversations turn to – a personal attack, transference, or projection. People find it difficult to stay on topic and attack the issue, the problem and NOT the people in the conversation. Even in Joy’s example above (about throwing the cup) the person attacked her act – not her personally.

  5. As usual, I totally agree Suz. And I think Lauri’s point is well taken.”Unfortunately, in our society, admitting one was wrong, or that there are other sides to a topic that are valid, gets mixed up with our pride and resorting to name calling is a way to save face”
    There is so much of what I call “character assassination” in the adoption reform community. People can’t agree to disagree on points so they resort to the fingerpointing, name calling, rumor spreading tactics that are just as destructive to our cause IMO as thebitter troublemakers. I work very hard now to turn away from negativity because I see that it holds us back. Thank you for such throught provoking topics!

  6. There is so much of what I call “character assassination” in the adoption reform community. People can’t agree to disagree on points so they resort to the fingerpointing, name calling, rumor spreading tactics that are just as destructive to our cause IMO as thebitter troublemakers.

    Carol – You reference to rumor spreading made me laugh as it reminded me of years ago when I learned a natural mother, angry at me for speaking at a conference with an adoptive mother, spread a rumor that I was sleeping with my daughters ADOPTIVE FATHER. Seriously? Are you kidding me? I never even met the man.

  7. Interesting post, Suz. There is likely some sort of noise in all communications beyond a simple greeting, and sometimes even then. 🙂 I don’t think I’m capable of discussing adoption without internal noise. My throat tightens, my stomach sinks, my brain goes on overload. Nonetheless, I believe we can and should be civil in conversations and debates. That doesn’t mean that anger can’t be expressed. Ex., I have great anger about adoption and will express it, but no reason to be angry at the person I’m talking to. Even if they disagree. The point is to persuade, not disparage.

  8. Denise :
    Interesting post, Suz. There is likely some sort of noise in all communications beyond a simple greeting, .

    Most definitely there is, Demise. My belief in that in adoption we have an inordinate amount of noise to deal with and that often causes us to act or react a certain way.

  9. I’m strongly in favor of using respectful language when engaged in conversation with others regardless of the medium used to communicate. I value the opinions of those who have the maturity, the wisdom, the vocabulary, and the emotional control to communicate in a civilized manner. Conversely, I devalue those who engage in personal attacks and make incendiary remarks about those with whom they disagree. For me, it goes back to the golden rule I learned in kindergarten: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I must admit that there has been a time or two that I’ve had a well-constructed insult ready to do its job, but I held back. Ultimately I didn’t feel that the short-term gratification would be worthwhile. I’m of the mindset that in the big scheme of things, kindness wins.
    I found this article to be of interest and the readers here might too.

    Don’t Be a Jerk! Survey Says People Tune Out Disrespectful Dialogue Online
    By Clyde on June 25, 2010 5:15 PM
    It’s not just nice to be nice–a new survey suggests social media users ditch people, sites and communities online that aren’t.
    Released by Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate and KRC Research, the incivility study, conducted online in April, looked at how uncivil behavior impacts the ways people view and participate in social media. More than 1,000 were asked about the issue–34% reported “tuning out” of social networking sites, and 39% reported “general tone and level of civility” as a major reason why.
    Uncivil behavior has led social media users to defriend/block someone online (45%), stop visiting sites (38%) and drop out of online communities or fan clubs (25%).
    It doesn’t end there. Respondents reported deciding not to buy from a company again (56%) and advising family/friends not to buy a product (49%) due to a lack of civility.
    And between blogs, social networking sites and Twitter, blogs were rated the most uncivil. Blogs came in at 51%, social networking at 43% and Twitter at 35%.

    Gail

    • Gail – I love that article and those stats for more reason than one! Thank you for sharing. Also, I can raise a hand to being one of those statistics. I do defirend, leave, stop reading, etc. people who do not know how to behave. I had several bad experiences with people I knew had terrible behavior but I foolishly thought it wouldn’t to me, i was special, I was their friend. LOL. Yeah, right. Hang out with the mean girls until the day one of those mean girls turns on you. Oh, yes, yes, they do. I no longer hang with the mean girls. Much prefer being outcast than being labelled mean or being guilty by association.

  10. I see that there are two Janets commenting in the previous installment of this discussion. I’m not the one referred to as ukhte. Is that sister?

    Laurie :
    Unfortunately, in our society, admitting one was wrong, or that there are other sides to a topic that are valid, gets mixed up with our pride and resorting to name calling is a way to save face, if you will.
    Personally, I love debates, hate attacks!

    Granted, I mostly know “our society”, but this behavior seems to be an egoic function that I imagines persists throughout societies. The distinction between debating and attacking is an interplay between heart and mind and ego.

    gail : For me, it goes back to the golden rule I learned in kindergarten: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I must admit that there has been a time or two that I’ve had a well-constructed insult ready to do its job, but I held back. .
    Gail

    I can’t say I’ve always held back the insult. But I guess I have held back the more well-constructed ones. Perhaps our attempts at “civility” spring from the desire to do well to others, to find a way to communicate and connect with our fellow humans.

    I like to use the word static rather than noise for interference in communication, because I like to use noise for raising up a joyful one.

  11. my opinions regarding online communication. (rambling thoughts)

    when communicating online, we have the opportunity to present our thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc. in a well thought out manner. after all, we do not have to respond to anyone immediately. we can take time to process our emotions and gather our thoughts before we respond to others. to me, this type of give and take, no matter how emotional the subject matter, represents a desire to truly communicate.

    not all people do this online. the anonymity of the internet allows people to respond in whatever manner they choose without being held accountable within their own social group. therefore, no matter how rude, crude, and socially unacceptable their behavior is online, there are no real world consequences. IMO, this does not represent a desire to communicate. whether this behavior is defensive or aggressive in nature, the result is the same. other people tune them out and quit “listening”.

    there are still others who seem to want to communicate, but in actuality, whether consciously or not, what they really want is to be thought of as superior to, or smarter than, or more knowledgeable than the rest of us. so they remain civil in their methods, while they attempt to dazzle you with brilliance, and if that doesn’t work they resort to the “baffle them with bullsh*t” approach. if their ideas are challenged, they respond with the “i am simply misunderstood” defense and may attempt another round of dazzle and baffle, hoping to feed their ego before they wander off to more fertile ground never having really made their ideas clear.

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