December 13, 2021

Am I the Cursed Karen? Learning how to Communicate Effectively (& Mindfully).

The thing about big transitions is that they require a lot of energy. That is what puts them in the classification of “big.”

They take up lots of space both emotionally and, perhaps, in points measured in hours and minutes.

My most recent, big transition in the form of a physical move has definitely taken up lots of airtime. And due to that, I have low bandwidth to deal with certain things, including minor inconveniences. I’ve been quick to voice my discontent. And not always in the nicest way.

“Well, maybe if you would have done your job like you were supposed to.”

And

“Why am I asking for this again? I already asked three times! This should have been done already.”

Not exactly shining moments in the past couple of weeks. And even less shiny when I add exclamation points.

In addition to this behavior, I noticed that I go around asking for validation from everyone I know afterward. “Was that too much? I mean, was I wrong?”

The pangs of guilt are a result of conditioning. “Don’t complain” is the belief. If you complain, you are annoying. If you are a woman and you complain, you are even worse—a nag.

I had a conversation with one of my students recently. “Oh yes,” she explained. “At my last job, we had a name for women in their late-30s and 40s who were always complaining.”

I self-consciously stayed quiet thinking of the number of complaints I had been voicing lately.

She continued. “Yes, they are usually single, have no children, and complain about everything!”

I could almost feel the thought bubble forming over my head with images of myself: 38, single, and without children, doing just that. Complaining about lots of things as of late.

“I hate to be one of those people,” I said to a friend at lunch recently.

“You mean, like a Karen?” she asked with a giggle.

Am I exhibiting signs of the cursed Karen? It’s not possible. Karens do not have basic things like enough self-awareness to ask themselves this. By the way, what is the name for single, childless men in their 30s and 40s who complain? Oh yeah, that’s right. There isn’t one. Only women are supposed to be content with everything, is that right?

I haven’t been complaining because I am single and childless. I have been complaining because when I pay money that I work hard to earn (I mean, I only have my own single, childless income to rely on after all), I expect that the service I paid for is delivered in the way that was promised. When I ask nicely for things and don’t get a response, is it Karen-like to metaphorically (or actually) raise my voice?

Perhaps, before I was a foreigner for the first time, I had more space to shove grievances aside or pretend that my money wasn’t wasted when a vendor took advantage of my tight-lipped response to their sh*tty job. As an American and a New York City native, I understand I have had many advantages. Or perhaps before I was a foreigner who hadn’t slept in weeks because the noise on the street was so disruptive and endless, I had more energy to consider whether complaining about something was worth the trouble (sometimes it isn’t, after all). Or maybe before I had asked the landlord five times to put up the shade that should have been installed before I arrived, I had more patience to just go ahead and do it myself.

To take things into my own hands is a typical response for me. But is it the best response?

Moving forward, I realized a couple of things.

>> I can choose my responses to situations, and they don’t have to be on either end of the swing of a pendulum, for example, saying nothing at all, or saying something with lots of exclamation points. There is a middle ground for effective communication.

>> I don’t have to feel guilty about voicing discontent.

Part of effectively communicating is conveying our feelings about something, but maybe not in the moment our faces are red hot and we are about to blow a gasket. It is perhaps in getting the point across that we are astonished to be asking for something that should have been done already, for the fifth time, without a hard lean on the exclamation point key. It is also not staying silent about something we are due, because we don’t want to seem like a nag.

I have finally come to learn the value of my time and money.

Expressing this efficiently might take some practice. Sometimes, when appropriate, it will likely include me taking matters into my own hands. The mindful response will be a process and like most, there might be times of relapse in the form of staying quiet at my own expense.

If only one thing is for sure, it’s the realization of this: effective communication and the bigger role it plays in my life is invaluable. And this is what the big transitions and the times of discomfort are for: big growth. Exclamation point.

 

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