Can’t Read Your Mind, Speak Up

Last weekend I ran into a cousin at a wedding who jokingly said “When will those criticisms end?” Though I know that he was teasing and joking about the fact that most of my pieces point out mainly our social and cultural flaws, for lack of a better word, I am unsure of how they make others feel.

Funny enough my purse was selectively stolen that same night, from the couple of other purses that sat on the table. My cousin added that he expects to read about it in the piece of the following week which I am not failing to mention.

But it is not the fact that my purse and most of my personal belongings were stolen at a wedding that frustrate me, even though safety is concerning. It is our ability to openly talk and discuss matters that I would like to explore. Though we have already dabbled in our stance regarding asking questions, I wonder if open discussions can be raised here to have a more 360 vision.

First things first, how are our children raised? Is it a discussion based relationship that parents take when it comes to mistakes or mischief or rather a punishment approach? When it comes to friendship or even work relationships, are we the type to discuss matters openly or hide behind “yilugnta”?

One way or another, the main question is do we communicate our feelings and sentiments openly in any situation? I think not. From my observations, I have noticed that we dwell in a society where most things are left unsaid as though others will comprehend or somehow magically read our thoughts and feelings without a single utterance.

Have you ever heard of people exclaiming how open and straightforward people from Dire Dawa or Harar are? So have I and it always amazes me how it is perceived as being insolent or careless. I understand that there are limits to being straightforward or open, I wonder if these shouldn’t be traits to aspire to.

Most of all, I understand that these are specifically related to our culture and upbringing and I will take cultural sensitivity into account. For example, I wouldn’t expect someone from Japan not to bow to greet others, someone from France not to respect the 15 minutes of courtesy or a German to arrive late.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not talking about stereotypes but cultural norms that are deeply engrained that they almost become second nature. I must admit that we are all individuals and different in that regard but there are obvious traits that we all share in common. It is almost as though we all share a bigger brain in common outside of our individual thinking like birds migrating for winter.

We can cite various actions that are shared like shaking hands with the left supporting the right or standing up to greet elders, and the list goes on. However, there are other learned customs such as not looking into the eyes of adults as a child or joining adult conversations at the dinner table.

The latter is what I would like us to focus on. Though cultures and traditions are to be nurtured and kept there are certain customs that we can clearly do without. Imagine an adult that not only grew up without the ability to ask questions but also with the incapacity to hold a conversation about difficult matters such as alcohol, drugs, sex, love, friendships etc. What kind of adult would that be?

I am not saying that we don’t discuss similar matters but rather that we don’t discuss them with the right people. I hear adults complaining about the downfall of the current generation but I blame them for not sitting their children down and clearly talking about everything they should expect to see outside of their walls; but instead of opening the door for open discussions most blindly believe that their children are innocent. Is that really the case? If we are seeing hundreds of teenagers involved in certain activities, what makes us think that our teenage kid is any different? There is such a thing as peer pressure, after all, but most of all we need to acknowledge that if parents don’t talk to their children, they will find someone else to discuss to talk to about these topics.

The question is, are we ready for the answers that will be provided elsewhere when we aren’t ready to provide the answers we want? I am simply wondering if we shouldn’t make it a habit to discuss matters, no matter how difficult or hard they may be.

Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled

Published on Jan 24,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 873]



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