Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Going Off Script

From The Oatmeal's Why I'd Rather
Get Punched in the Testicles
Than Call Customer Service

So I got a new computer.  Joy! 

Except that there were the inevitable bobbles, for which I had to contact.... Customer Service.  <you can cue the Jaws theme music here.>

When I moved away from OCPD ex b-f in June, I switched from DSL internet connection to cable, and due to who knows why, my ISP had to assign me a new username and passcode for my new connection.  I should have written it down, but I had a lot on my mind then, and anyway, I'd picked an easy name and passcode, because I knew I would remember it...

You knew I wouldn't, right?

So I decided that, instead of calling in to my ISP helpline, and trying to verbally communicate with "Muffy" and "Jeff" and "Ashleigh," whose thick Indian accents have almost driven me to eating my own head in the past, I would try to resolve it via chat on my work 'puter during my morning break.  I got "Rocky" and "Juliet," instead.

I'm not unsympathetic to Rocky and Juliet.  (Or even Muffy and Jeff.)  They work long hours, don't earn a lot of money, and are working in an unfamiliar language.  Plus, many of the people they're trying to help are idiots.  (I might even count myself as one of those idiots.)  I'm sure I would do much worse as a Customer Service Rep if I was trying to communicate in their language.  I don't want to be nasty to Rocky & Juliet.

I just wish communications felt a little less like Rocky & Bullwinkle.

So I'm typing away, but Rocky is intent on going through the full script.  He's not listening to what I'm saying (or in this case, typing.)

ME: Hi, I have a new home computer, I need to find out my online log-in name for my cable connection, so that I can log in.

ROCKY: Congratulations on your new computer.  We can certainly help you with this.  For help with your cable connection, you will have to contact your local cable company.

ME: There's nothing wrong with my cable, it was working fine with my old computer.  I just need the username, which I forgot, so that I can get online with the new computer.

ROCKY: Are you chatting from your new computer?

ME <taking a deep breath>: NO, I can't get online from my new computer.  I need the username which logs me onto the cable connection.

ROCKY: Let me direct you to the site which gives you the steps to get online.

ME: Thank you, see that first step?  Login with your username.  You guys set me up with a new username in June, but I don't remember what it is.  I just need the username for the account, and possibly a password reset.

ROCKY: Are you online from your new computer now?

ME: No, I CAN'T GET ONLINE FROM MY NEW COMPUTER.  Look, just give me the CS to call, I'll call later from home.  (Meanwhile, I have scrolled through My Account and finally located the mystery username - it's my usual username, plus the number 1.  Genius!)

I get off chat with Rocky, try fruitlessly to log in or reset the passcodes myself to that username e-mail account, and eventually "Juliet" does a passcode reset for me.  When I get home later that evening, voila!  All better.

But this reminded me soooo much of a discussion on one of my "boards" about those with OCPD and their scripts.  Sometimes it feels like we are trying to have a discussion, and the other person isn't so much listening and responding to us, but stuck in a groove.  Like they're onstage, and are trying to feed us a cue.  And they're going to keep tossing it to us, regardless of what we say back to them. 

Which leads to fights and bad feelings all around.

Some OCPDrs themselves have described this seeking for the "right" answer, the right response.  They may not know exactly what they wanted to hear back, but they knew they weren't getting it, so they felt obligated to press on, until they heard - whatever it was - that they needed to hear.  This was unlikely, depending on how long the interaction had gone on, to be a true reflection of their partner's feeling or thoughts, but it was the right answer.

Here's what one frustrated partner joked:
I have told my DW rather than having a pointless discussion she should prepare a script in advance. She'd give me a copy. She'd read her lines. I'd read my lines. I'd know when I'm allowed to speak and when I'm not. She'd hear exactly what she wants to hear. We could even use the same scripts over and over. I'd know when it was going to end. We could both be happy.
Has this ever happened to you?
Frequently, I would begin speaking. DW would anticipate that I was about to say X. She would cut me off and start responding to X. I would tell her I was not going to say X; I was going to say Y. She would then insist that I was lying. We would then get into a ridiculous argument about what I would have said had she not interrupted.
I have been there, done that.  And <hanging my head in shame> have done my share of interrupting others as well, though I've never gotten into arguments about what somebody else would have said.

Maybe we need to take a bit of advice from Patsy.

So how does one deal with someone who won't "Stop, look and listen"?

One tactic is to walk away and start ignoring the person.  They'll ask why.  Answer: "It seemed you were not interested in a conversation, but a monologue.  Since my participation is not required, I thought I'd keep myself occupied while you finished up."  (It's important if you take this approach, to keep your tone neutral and pleasant - no heavy sarcasm in your tone, please.)

Another is to yell at them to Quit Interrupting!

Another is to simply not answer at all, unless asked why.  Then give the same answer (my participation seemed unnecessary.)

You can buy your own sock monkey puppet at
Colonial Candle
I thought about trying a sock puppet, myself.  Talk to the monkey!

Theoretically, you could talk to the Rambler during a moment of lucidity, like I did, and say, "You know, sometimes one of us might be talking, maybe when we've had a bit too much to drink, or are really excited about something, and we kind of talk right over the other person, and don't listen very well.  How about we agree on a signal so the other person realizes they're doing it?  A code word, holding up a hand or something...?" 

I thought, by making it neutral, by saying this is something we both do, something we both should be allowed to halt, that he would agree.  And he did.

Agree, that is.

In practice... it didn't work so well.  Often his mouth was like the Aerosmith song, "Train keep a-rollin', all night long."  But not in a good way.

I don't think there is any one approach that will work with everyone, all the time, because we are all individuals, and so are the people who, uhmmm, have their scripts.

For myself, I'm going to try to work on the bad habit of interrupting others in my own conversations.  To be aware that if what I have to say is that important, the opportunity to say it will arise again, and if it doesn't... maybe what I had to say wasn't that important, after all.

To realize that every moment does not have to be filled with noise, to babble words just for the sake of filling the empty pauses.  Silences are meaningful, and often, beautiful and essential parts of listening.

To breathe more.  To smile more.  To hold up a hand or walk away if others interrupt me.

What are you going to do to improve the quality of your conversations?
Leave a comment, below.