The Kid, The Woodpecker, and The Stone Wall

When I was a baby (between the ages of 0 and 2), my mom tells me I was quite the demon child. If I got upset for any reason, I would cry at the top of my lungs like there was no tomorrow – and any attempts to hurriedly shut me up would only incite further protest.

So bad was I in fact, that one night, when my grandfather ill-advisedly insisted I be brought along to see him off at the airport, it was with much trepidation and worry that my parents complied. As they feared, within seconds of arrival, I let loose my sirens.

“Cry Havoc!”, and let slip the dogs of war

Needless to say, the night ended with my father seeing his father off, and my mother in the parking lot: trying to pacify me…

Now in recent times, I have begun to realise that old traits die hard. When I have a concern that I want heard and I believe no one is listening, I only get more and more persistent until I cannot be ignored: A pattern otherwise known as “The Woodpecker Syndrome.”

Unfortunately, while this may be the secret to success in the business world, in the world of relationships, it is quite the opposite. Not only does it not lead to a resolution, it often triggers the most undesirable emotional response. It triggers a defensive silence also known as – A stone wall.

Psychology today says:

“When women stonewall, it’s typically a function of temperament – they’re shy, inhibited, or introverted. More commonly, it’s a learned behavior – engaging in conflict or emotion-laden conversation has exposed them to put-downs or abuse in the past.”

Meaning that, more commonly, it is not that the stone-waller is not listening, it is simply that they are (understandably) afraid to communicate the conflicting response that they have. Nevertheless, the effect on me, the woodpecker, remains the same.

Because having received no response, I continue to believe I have not been heard, and therefore cannot reach an emotional resolution. Worry builds, the wood-pecking increases, and the stone wall gets even thicker as a result.

Soon, my focus becomes not what was being discussed, but in fact, how to get a response… and any kind of response will do. Even if that response has to come as a result of the relationship deteriorating beyond repair.

Oh Well…

Of course, that does not always have to be the case. The important thing for woodpeckers like me to realise (and communicate), is that what we seek is feedback… not necessarily positive feedback – and the important thing for stone-wallers to understand (and communicate), is why they are reluctant to give that feedback. I find that once I can understand and appreciate the reason for a stonewall, it is much easier for me to calm down and peck less, if at all.

I firmly believe that communication is the answer to many relationship problems. Yet it is knowing what needs to be communicated, that makes all the difference. For more on communication in relationships, check out this lifehacker article.

Damola Mabogunje

Software Engineer by day, Blogger, Poet and Author, by night, I spend my days writing everything from the convex comma, to highly complex code.

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