Monday, January 24, 2011

Writing Prompt: Bad communication= nobody wins

Writing prompt:  Imagine a scene where two people have a problem and how bad people skills keep either one from getting what they want.
This sort of negative and self centered (immature) way of communicating is something that we see all of the time. Got me thinking about how validation and understanding can increase our ability to have successful and effective communication where everyone wins rather than resorting to insults and villainizing.
I wrote one that reflected the frustration of generation gaps and impatience with young people that I have witnessed personally in our schools. Power struggles that never empower.

I hadn’t paid enough attention--again. But what would be the point? She stood, her broad back to the blurry green chalkboard, her lips pursed, twirling the chalk between her sausage fingers with an impatient flare of her nostrils. She repeated my name as if it tasted like battery acid on her tongue. I stared back at her—sure that I had a vapid sleep-walking expression on my face that infuriated her.

There was something on the board which was somehow familiar—numbers and symbols, but I was like one of those poor immigrants on Ellis island—no-speakah-da-language. My nemesis stabbed the blackboard with the chalk leaving dots of mounded white next to the equals sign. The  enormous black glasses she wore reflected the dull snap of overhead fluorescent lights, and slid in increments down her sweaty nose, as she suffocated in her own flesh. Why did the fat teacher taunt me? She knew well and good—I had no clue what the sum of all that gibberish was. I disliked her for that sharp voice, puffy hair and lack of fashion. Fashion was one thing I could understand—I could feel superior about that.

The other students didn’t seem to mind as she waited for me to fail. Nobody snickered when this happened to me—wouldn’t dare—they rolled their eyes in my behalf. I guess I had to put Miss Burned Out in her place to save face. The classic cop out would do.

“Whatever.” I shrugged.

She shifted her enormous weight onto her unfortunate left leg and strangled the chalk in one hand as she placed bloated fists on her hips. Heaving a sigh that would try the stitching on any shirt, she responded, very tired.

“Wroooong. Wherever--as in ‘wherever did you leave your brain this morning?’”

“Same place you left your teaching skills, I guess.” I was more than a match for her feared and notorious put downs and sarcasm.

“Is that right? Anybody in here know the answer?”

Glaring, I searched the faces in the room. Nobody raised their hand.

“There you go.” I went back to drawing on the desk.

“I wish you well with your prestigious job as burger flipper at McDonalds.” She tossed her clown hair and crossed her arms. I gave her my special death glare and she smiled as the class “oohed” as one.

“Thanks, I look forward to serving you the Super Sized meal everyday. I’m guessing you want fries with that?" The other students laughed—probably out of disbelief more than anything else and I smiled like a helpful fast food worker.

“You win—I’m fat and you’re stupid.” She swung her hip and turned like the Titanic toward her desk.

I felt the fire start in my stomach and knew it was on its way to my head, but she couldn’t know that she got me. “Fat would be putting it mildly and stupid is a gross exaggeration.” She didn’t know me. Math was the only class I sucked at.

“Prove it.” Giganta tapped her toe.

“Prove what?”

“You aren’t stupid.” She shook her head with her brows raised. It didn’t help—her face still look bunched up like a Cabbage Patch doll.

“Ok. If you lose two hundred pounds.” I wrinkled my nose in disgust,  scanning her from head to toe like a laser.

“I’ll get right on that—now what’s the answer Einstein?”

“Bite me—no wait, you’re trying to cut back.” I shrugged. That was the end of that.

“Only on carbs—I can have fat-head.”

“Whatever.” Crap. She was good.

We glared at each other—at an impasse. She knew more, I weighed less and we were both helpless to do anything about it. An icy lump raised in my throat. If it weren't for the tears trying to worm their way out I know I could have cut her lower than low. The lame question on the board behind her remained unsolved as I stood and stomped out of the room to wander the halls and think of an answer to “fat-head” until the bell rang.

Share a scene of your own or comment how this could have gone better.


Lois D. Brown said...

Ooooo, this was so good. I don't think I could follow up. What I liked most about this piece of writing is your wit. The whole see you at McDonalds and "would you like fries with that order" was awesome. Your writing is so real. Love it!

Maribel said...

This is so REAL! Had a classic moment of pride getting in the way of communication just yesterday so I can't really comment on how to do it better...sad, mehh! You're right "Power struggles never empower."