Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Communication and Misunderstandings

It is the lovely month of February. :) It happened to be Groundhogs Day yesterday and I'm not excited for 6 more weeks of winter. I am waiting patiently for summer to come around.

Well, I've been again slacking on the blog. But that's also because I've had some personal things that have happened. Such as just a total meltdown one night about adoption. It wasn't anything bad and I don't point the finger at anyone. I did in that moment but that's because I wasn't communicating very well.
Amy (from Amstel Life) made a post just recently about open adoption. And it goes a lot along the lines about what I'm going to talk about.

I told D&V something very important about their adoption finalization that there is a possibility that I could be there, if they waited. They told me they would let me know.
They made a post about being finalized earlier than I had told them and I thought they were just trying to get around my feelings and that they didn't want to tell me. And I pointed fingers and told them that I didn't understand that if I trusted them with Olivia they could at least trust me with what they choose to do with their family. I know I'm the birth mom and I'm not Olivia's mom so I don't have a big play in what their family does. I just would like to know. And instead of asking them about them, I just assumed they were out to get me.
Val made the post a week before I had told her about her being there for the finalization and that there was a difference between the finalization and being sealed. And I was making a big deal about being there when they're sealed as a family.
Just a lot of feelings were hurt and a lot of misunderstandings.

I don't think it was anyone's fault. Mostly, I assume and jump to conclusions and blow things out of proportion. I know that Dustinn and Val would never try to intentionally hurt me. I told them to make the plans they want with THEIR family.
I like what Amy had to say,

7) After the birth, learning the boundaries of open adoption will be difficult at first. You can talk about what to expect until you turn blue, but everything after the birth is a whole 'nother story! You'll learn as you go, but as long as you continue to communicate and be honest with each other, things should start to come together eventually. I can't stress enough how important communication is in open adoption. Since our open adoption was very open, sometimes I had a hard time saying no to visiting. After a long day of class, sometimes I felt guilty for saying no to stopping by to see De and Deanna. There were times I just needed to take a break and be alone. I learned to take care of myself first and to visit only when I felt emotionally ready. And that made our visits so much better.

I try to be as open as possible with the adoption and how I'm feeling and this is what I said to Val at one point in our e-mailing back and forth,

"I just hope I haven't ruined anything with you guys with what I said. I didn't mean for it to all come out how it did. But I guess I just got really worked up about it and didn't know how else for it to come out. I'm REALLY sorry. I feel really bad. I'm like hoping you guys still want to talk to me or you're thinking, well... we don't have to see her this trip. Ha. That's like my worst fear is that you'll keep Olivia hostage or you guys just don't want to talk anymore.

If there is ANYTHING you feel like you need to talk to me about. Let me know. I know that you're worried that something will be ignored and that it'll just build up inside and ruin things between us. And I don't want that to happen either with you guys. So if anything at all is bothering you let me know.

And I know how cool it'd be to tell Olivia that her birthmom was there when she was being sealed to you guys. But at the same time, it'd be just as cool to tell her that you guys got to see me be sealed to my husband in the temple. I remember looking back at a story that I wrote. I had to write one before I went to the hospital about why I was doing an adoption plan and this is part of what I said,

"I remember a few months before I had Olivia I went to the temple open house. I was really nervous to go into the the sealing room but as I was sitting there. All I could think about was Olivia being sealed to Dustinn and Val for eternity. When I thought ache and lonliness would come, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I knew that is what is meant to happen to have families being sealed together forever. I know that right now it may seem hard when I look at her precious face and see the life that I created but I know she'll always be my little girl. I'm not losing anyone but gaining more family and blessings through all of this. And she is too. She deserves it all. She deserves a dad who will love her and will always be by her side and comfort her when times are rough through the priesthood and fathers blessings. She deserves a mom who will be there for her and help her through all the boy issues and teach her the importance of families and temples. I know Dustinn and Val will be the best parents and have seen it all during this time. I know I love her and they love her as much as I do. Even if times are rough for me, I know my family will always be there and that God will be there for me as well. He has been here this whole process and I know He wouldn't leave me now during this time."

I read back through all of that and know that God is looking out for me and also for your family. I read it and feel comforted that I made the right decision for Olivia because I am given comfort when I think about you being sealed. And I don't want to hold back the blessings that you guys will gain when being sealed together. If you have the opportunity to be sealed sooner. Then do that. Do what will make you happy. It will make me happy to know that you guys are an eternal family and will help me to look forward to having an eternal family for myself."

To help along the journey of finding a family perfect for you- to be able to be open with communication, I couldn't have said it better then what Amy said,
"1) If you are a prospective birthmother, choose an adoptive couple/family who you could see yourself having a strong relationship with many years down the road. Choose people with similar interests, values, and morals as your own. You're going to have to do a ton of research, but get to know as much as humanly possible about each other before the actual adoption. The more couples you interview, the better chance you have of finding a perfect match for you. If you're not comfortable with an agency, ask family, friends, and co-workers if they know anyone who is looking to adopt. Sometimes, the best match can come from someone who knows someone who knows someone. In fact, that's how we met each other!"

If you're wondering, "Stefanie, but how do I have start a conversation without hurting the other person's feelings or have them misunderstand what I say?"
If it something important and you're angry, I would suggest to wait and process you're thinking before you lash out, I waited a day to hear what other people had to say. But I also didn't even ASK why Dustinn and Val would tell me one thing and do another thing. Instead, I assumed.
It's ALL about representation.

In one of the post placement groups, my caseworker Loni brought in a chocolate cake. She asked a girl next to me if she wanted a piece and she said, "Sure."
Loni cut the cake then grabbed it with her hands and put it in the girl's face. The girl was freaking out and she was like, "I don't want it now!" It's all about presenting how you're feeling in a manner. You don't want a cake shoved in your face. Sometimes you do feel that way, I know I did at one point. And we have the tendency if we are getting the cake shoved in our face (feeling offended) we shove it back. That is NOT a healthy way of communicating. When we want to present, we will cut the cake and use a knife or a fork and put it on a plate. We do NOT grab it straight out of the cake and shove it in someone's face.
I always think of that cake analogy every time I try to communicate something vitally important to me to D&V. (It's hard not to think about it when it was ACTUALLY presented like that. Haha!)

Ten Golden Rules of Communication
Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

1. There are many slips between the other person's ears and your lips. The message you want to convey may be garbled, distorted, camouflaged or completely lost by more dominant messages. This happens because the recipient interprets your message by his or her brain, not by your brain. To avoid this, think about the possible ways in which your message can be misunderstood or distorted by a recipient who is not on the same wave length or of the same orientation that you are.

2. People are not mind readers. They can't read your mind. They don't know what is really bothering you or what you really want from them. Ask clearly and precisely what you want. High achievers are good in letting others know what they want. Some speakers deliver the whole speech without spelling out even once what they want from their audience. Then they feel unhappy when they don't get the results they expected from their speech.

3. Feel a genuinely liking for the people with whom you are communicating. Remember the saying, "Nobody cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care." When they feel you really like them, they make an extra effort to understand what you want.

4. The rule of listening. There are two ears and one tongue, spend twice more time in listening than in speaking. The more closely you listen to others, the more effective you would be in communicating your ideas to them according to their frame of reference. It is by listening close to them, that you will know how they think, what their favorite expressions are and how you can arouse their interest.

5. The spoken word is but a small component of communication. The spoken word constitutes of only 7 percent of the message, the other 93% is non-verbal. If you say the words, "You are fine," but, your face, body and your voice is conveying, "I can't stand you," which one do you think will get conveyed? Match your body language, voice tone, and other non-verbal behavior with your words.

6. Keep your communication pure and simple. Do not contaminate it with sarcasm, witticisms, or put downs. When you do that, people stop listening to what you say and get flooded with emotions and thoughts regarding how you are treating them.

7. The rule of repetition. Tell them first what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.

8. Check. Ensure the accuracy and comprehension of your message. For example, when you leave a message for someone, ask the person who has taken your message to repeat it so you can check it for its accuracy and comprehension. Do the same when you instruct your staff to perform a task for you.

9. Review. Leave a review document for the recipient to take home. Give them something to review later and correct themselves, for example, a written summary of steps

10. Walk your talk. Match your actions with your words. If you say something and then do another, your action will be received as the real message and not your spoken words.

With number 10, I have never heard of so many girls say that they had met the couple of their dreams and placed their baby with them. The couple reassured that they were willing to have an open adoption. Then once the baby is born and placed in their arms, the communication is cut off. If you're going to say that you want an open adoption with the birth mom, THEN DO IT. Don't do it because you're baby hungry and snatch the first opportunity you have by sweet talking into the situation. It's not charming but selfish. When a birth mom is being unselfish by giving you her baby, you need to reciprocate the unselfishness by putting yourself out of your comfort zone and realizing that baby isn't JUST yours.

How to avoid Misunderstandings
Shatton Claybrooks

A misunderstanding is the inability to effectively communicate in a clear manner. All too often, the sender says something one-way, and the receiver interprets it another way. However, the more effective the communication, the more likely misunderstandings can be resolved when they arise. With that said, there are ways to develop better communication, which can help avoid misunderstandings.

Be Specific When Communicating

Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is very important to be specific when communicating with others. Never say things in a general way. If a person knows exactly what you mean, the chances of a misunderstanding can be avoided.

For example, instead of saying, “I’ll see you on Friday,” be more specific and say, “I’ll see you on Friday at 3 o’clock.”

Be Aware of Your Verbal and Non-Verbal Language

Be certain to clearly convey the same verbal and non-verbal cues. Do not give mixed communication signals. Remember, body language, facial expressions, and tone of speech play an important part in how messages will be interpreted.

For example, if you say something one way, and your facial expression says something else, it's very likely that a miscommunication will occur.

Always Ask Questions

Avoid making assumptions based on preconceived notions. Ask questions to confirm, whether you are the one sending or receiving the message. Never assume that you know what has been conveyed.

If someone conveys a message that is unclear, ask for further clarification. For example, “ I did not understand what you said, can you please repeat it?”

Practice Active Listening Skills

Active listening is one of the best ways to effectively communicate with others. In fact, when we truly listen, misunderstandings are less likely to occur. With that in mind, there is a difference between hearing and active listening; hearing involves sound waves reaching the ears, and the brain processing what has been heard.

Active listening goes far beyond that of just hearing what someone has said. It involves focus and a sincere commitment to make certain that what someone has said, is appropriately understood. This is not easy, though. The following are ways to become an active listener:

  • Avoid distractions
  • Stop all non-relevant activities
  • Focus on the person speaking
  • Be an active participant; respond to questions or comments
  • Encourage the speaker with your body language (lean forward or nod your head with a yes or no to indicate you understand)

Effective communication is not an easy skill to master. It takes time to develop this type of competence. However, it is not unattainable. The best practice of any effective communicator is to be specific, watch all verbal and non-verbal cues, ask questions, and be an active listener. This is the key to all effective communication. Remember, you can never be too sure, too precise, or too inquisitive.


  1. :) Stefani you are an amazing birthmother! Keep your head up hon! PS you need to enter my latest giveaway for Olivia!

  2. I always appreciate your insight. One of the hardest things for us on our adoption process, is that we will probabl never even get the chance to meet anyone from the birthmother's family...and we would love to have an open make not only our child, but the birthfamily a part of our family. Listening to the hearts of birthmothers soooo much prepares me for adoption and totally opens my heart to a very open adoption!