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“Your Request Could Not Be Processed”

When basic communication fails

If you follow astrology – even in a discreet way, so as not to appear foolish to yourself or others – you know that each and every planet in our solar system (including our Sun) has meaning, purpose and influence in our daily lives. While I’m actually more interested in the science of things, I have to admit that this month (November), what astrologers have to say about the ‘retrograde’ planet of communication (and technology), tiny, fast-moving Mercury, feels mighty convincing. A retrograde planet, according to astrology, weakens or dilutes whatever the planet ‘rules’.

For me it started towards the very end of October (I can feel the group nod of those who ‘get’ what I’m talking about), about 3 days before the retrograde. I wasn’t even thinking about it – after all, I was with someone I’d known for decades. We’d gone to see a really good film and were de-briefing on the walk back to our hotel. Suddenly, a comment I’d made about the lead character in the story was interpreted as a declaration of verbal warfare. My companion reacted swiftly and negatively, having inferred that my intention was to insult him. I was shocked by his reaction and back-pedaled quickly, apologizing (for what? I was clueless) for any harm. But I could see by the set of his jaw and the stare straight ahead that my explanations were not making things better.

A quote that’s been attributed to Oscar Wilde, but I’m not at all sure it was he who said it, says this about a perceived insult:  “Go ahead and take it personally – it saves time”. Wilde was well-known for his wit and scathing verbal swordsmanship. I’m much more of a peace-maker and harmony-seeker in all of my relationships; even with total strangers who feel abrasive from the get-go. I want to see and feel their ‘side’ of things; understand their viewpoints; untangle any misunderstandings I may have caused.

Since this month, so far, has been rife with misunderstandings and miscommunications, my patience and tolerance are really being put to the test. I mean, I know I have an appointment with your office next Tuesday; I responded to your text confirming it. So why do I continue to get text-reminders at least once a day? Check your messaging system, for God’s sake; am I the only one reporting this? ( I did actually speak with a human about the issue, in much kinder terms. She was unaware of the glitch. Apparently we’re all so used to annoying texts, that they just merge in our minds with all of the other goofy things our phones do). And speaking of texts:  the same day I received one from an out-of-state phone number that I didn’t recognize. The message was simply “NO”. I tried not to take it personally.

Communication, for people like me who pride themselves on being tolerant of human and  technology mishaps, is a Big Deal. When it’s muddled and confused, I immediately ‘check’ my own words, verbal or written. I try to re-state what’s obviously been unclear, and maybe landed badly. But sometimes, especially lately, my struggle to make sure I’m being clear makes me realize that I might actually need to “just shut-up already!” In the personal relationship arena, clarifying talk definitely has a sell-by date. I need to recognize when the other person has stopped listening – for whatever reason – and just let it go. Accept that there’s a communication breakdown but the moment will pass, the relationship will survive (or not).

With work, it’s a different matter:  I actually  need you to understand and to comply with instructions, so that your product will turn out the way you want it to. Sometimes, however, it seems that the client just hears blah-blah-blah and continues on their path, oblivious. What to do?

Whether a retrograde Mercury is in fact involved is debatable. But what I know for sure is that, when I experience a steady stream of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and resulting frustration, it’s time to stop talking, stop writing, stop trying so hard to bring clarity out of what feels like a super-dense fog or mist that’s settled-in. Communication is more than talking, verbally or non-  (of course); there’s active listening involved, and engagement. I can’t make that happen. Some days it really does feel like something to do with the stars…a reminder that my own timelines and expectations are just that – my own.

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