You are Known by the People you Hang Out With (Even Family)

ImageI am a fan of SOME reality TV shows. I must say that some of my favorites are about families. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of Keeping up With the Kardashians, The Braxton Family Values and Mary Mary. Now I know those three shows really have little in common, but to me the main commonality is that they all have a way they want their family to be seen as. I get this idea from listening to their individual commentary throughout the show. They don’t want people to think they don’t love each other or doesn’t want the other sibling to be successful, they want you to know the opposite and that sometimes as siblings they disagree. When you think about the idea of family branding, do you think about the meaning behind your family name, how people treat you because of your family name and associations and or how people distance themselves from you when you mention who your relatives are? Well the three shows that I enjoy watching all have achieved a high level of family branding.

When I think of the Braxton Family Value, I think of musical talents among sisters who each possess something completely different.  When they sing together it is wonderful, but you also see that they don’t always agree with each other.  They have their own mindsets, but at the end of the day all of the sister’s are musically talented and some want to be known for those talents. You see the things they go through with their husbands, kids, and balancing music, family and sister duties. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is honestly one of my favorite family reality TV shows. Kourtney’s idea of being a great parent but also working hard, with a fear of marriage because of her parent’s failed marriage is a great example of how complicated some situations can be. Khloe’s inability to get pregnant but she does not to let her inability to conceive put her in a standoffish position with Kourtney, who doesn’t try to get pregnant but has two children. Kim, is just now finding herself in my opinion. Now that she doesn’t work as much and has a new man in her life you  can see a change in her. This show in my opinion is the best example of family branding. Although some people do not like the show nor the family, you can’t deny that they don’t have the hustle and make it happen mentality, all while still being family centered. My new favorite show is Mary Mary. All I can say is that their family reminds me of my own (to a certain degree). You see them argue, disagree, threaten to take time out from the group, deal with daddy issues, and balance being a mother and good wife all at the same time. This while showing the world their family life.  As I started watching Mary Mary, it made me think of a more religion centered Braxton Family Values. Did they hide their faith, no but they did let everyone into their life to see how their faith plays a big part in the success and family life, yes.

With all of that being said, I love those shows and it makes me think about my own family and how do people see us. I can say with certainty that when people ask me who my mama, grandma, and granddaddy are and I tell them, they expect so much from me. They expect me to be able to sing my heart out, be in the church every Sunday and live by every word in the Bible, aspire to have a big family, and be a hard worker. Now those things are not bad but when I do things that are not within that line of thinking (which I do a lot), people  look at me like I should be ashamed of myself. Well I am not. I think they feel this way because they don’t really know what message my family wants to send out. Some people take the fact that we don’t socialized much with people who are not family as us thinking we are more than everyone else. In actually. it is because we have always had each other when we had nothing or no one else. They take that we go to church and are active in every auxiliary possible, as we must live by the Bible at all times and that singing just comes second nature because my granny and granddaddy did it.  Well, we do work hard and are never ashamed of anything that we have done (I honestly get that from my granny). I think if a family really wants to brand themselves on a smaller scale than the Braxton’s, Karadashians’s and the Mary’s then you really have to put forth the effort. Really look at how the things you do and say affect how people will perceive you and how you can shape the message then.  

All I know is that, when I was told you are known by the people you hang out with, my mama nor grandma did not lie about that. I know they meant it as friends, but family is the same thing. I will always be known as Jennifer’s little sister or Frankie’s granddaughter. I can’t change that but I can work to help how people see my family through the messages that I communicate.


We/I the People/Person

We the PeopleAs I begin my life after college, I am really beginning to see that their are more “I” people than any other type of person. I must say, I pride myself in helping others whenever possible and I am happy when others help me. I guess it comes from the way that I was raised. Their was no such thing as only looking out for self, you took care of your family and close friends. So as I begin this journey into the real world, I realize this is not my mama’s house or my family circle, I am beginning to see that when the Constitution said “We the People”, that wasn’t completely true. People are now more concerned about themselves and having more than others than helping others who need help.

This whole idea has been on my mind for a while now. It began with the conversation surrounding the President’s Inaugural address. As I listened to the pundits, dissect the speech piece by piece, I began to notice more of the “for businesses”, and “taking care of everyone” sort of speech began to develop. I began to worry about whether, people really did feel like they were more as individual than as a nation. That helping others who need help, was not as important as making more money than you are able to spend. Their is nothing wrong with wanting a better life for yourself, but once you obtain a better life don’t forget that someone helped you when you needed help.

Well this gets me to a few things I learned in Intercutural Communication, while I was in graduate school. Cultures can be divided in:collectivist and individualist.  Collectivist individual are people who see themselves in relation to their social roles, family, and ethnic group. They do not see their accomplishments as something that they accomplished for themselves, but instead for their entire family or ethnic group. Individualist cultures are more focused on their person accomplishment and how they accomplishments will affect them.

Now as a whole, the United States of America would be considered an individualist culture because people are more concerned about their own welfare and taking care of themselves, than taking care of the nation and the people who are less fortunate than themselves. Although the nation as a whole is very individualist, their are cultures inside of America who are quite collectivist. Two prime examples are most Black and Hispanic cultures. Being that I know first hand, in my family we look out for each other, regardless. You are more likely to see Black and Hispanic families taking care of several generations of people at once. It is not unheard of to know someone in either culture who takes care of their parents or live in a small community with just their family members. 

Overall, it seems that people (specifically some/most Americans) are so concerned with what they have that they are unwilling to see how they can help others and see certain people’s perspective. It is sometimes hard for people who are able to assist others to do so, because it requires looking at the situation from their perspective and not your own. Am I saying you should give your all and/or last to people who are less fortunate, no. I am saying that if you are able to help someone even if it is not financially, you should. We should look outside how someone can help me, and see how you can help someone else. Although American society has made it difficult to think this way, it is not impossible. America has a past of only taking specific groups of people welfare into consideration, but that doesn’t mean that the principles that the nation was founded upon should be the same premise that we live on now. I wish I could say we are completely pass looking at our own benefit, but I would be lying. Is it really horrible that we as a nation want to assist people who needs assistance, or is it really to much to ask of you. So is America really “We the People”, or should it say “I the Person”? 


Listening and Support is all some people need


As the holiday season is upon us, I can only think about all of the people who will have relationship issues. Not large issues but enough for them to want to vent to someone else. Well if I haven’t learned anything else in this journey to becoming a better person and friend, it is that sometimes people just want you to listen to them and support them. Now this sounds really easy, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

Think about the part in Waiting to Exhale, when they were all sitting around talking about their problems with men and how none of them were judgmental (maybe because they had been drinking) but they were listening and supportive (in their own way). Sometimes all we want to do is offer advice instead of listening to what the person has to say. Sometimes you just need to vent to people, because you don’t want to say something to the person that upset you.  It is sometimes better to vent to other people, instead of just getting upset about everything. It may not be as large of an issue as it appears. 

So how can we go against our natural instinct and just listen and offer support? I have two suggestions. First, when someone is having a problem let them talk without interrupting them with what you think and what they should do. You will need to give them some cues that you are listening such as nodding, eye contact and the occasional “yes”, “um-huh”. For some of us (women), this is easier because we do it more often than men.  It is okay to interrupt, but only if you need clarification. It is not okay if you want to offer your opinion and the person is not finished explaining the situation.  Also, try to listen mindfully and don’t let your thoughts wander.  You may think people don’t know when you are not listening, but don’t you remember that time when someone was pouring their heart out to you and you weren’t listening and they asked you what you think and you didn’t have an answer or gave the wrong response. People DO know when you are not listening and it is quite insensitive to not listen. Plus, it is easy for you to think about other things when people are talking but do you like when people are not listening to you but instead are thinking about other things. I don’t think you like it, so don’t do it to other people.

Second piece of advice that I have is, be supportive. Now this can come in different ways. You can be supportive by recalling the incident and saying that whatever decision they make you are there for them. Now if you think what they are doing is not right, then say so, but be sure to tell them why you don’t agree with it. Don’t assume they should understand because if they did, then you wouldn’t be having the conversation. You can also be supportive by offering a different outlook on the situation. Now this does not mean you need to tell them what they need to do, but instead you can offer them a different perspective on the situation. This includes saying that you understand their point of view and if you don’t have them explain it further. Once you let it be known that you understand their point of view, they may not take your advice and may even become angry, but that is just an initial reaction for some people. Then you can offer a different outlook and explain it. Depending on who you are talking to (woman or man) they may expect a different type of support.  

I know this advice seems so simple, but sit back and recall the last time someone spilled their heart out to you and you did not try to tell them what they should do. You probably don’t have to think hard about the situation. Just know that listening and being supportive is what most people need not judgmental and a pity party. 

Oh How Things Have Changed?

Today was a rather interesting. We looked at how different culture used communication and what was their idea of the use of rhetoric. As we were going over all of these things, we started talking about the formality within certain cultures and how the use of communication is restricted. It made me think about our society and how we have change, but yet have stayed the same.
The first thing that I could relate to this type of attitude and social construction was the evolution of women’s civil liberties and Black people. As it starts with women’s rights and liberties, there was once a time when women were only allowed to voice their opinion when they were given permission. If they voiced their opinion at any other time it was shunned upon and seen as inappropriate. If you look at society now, people would say oh how we have progressed and changed. They would look at the examples of women running their own businesses and being able to do for themselves along with voicing their opinions. But when you really look at it, how much have we really changed? True women do have more civil liberties than before, but we are still placed in categories as to what we can and can not do or what our ability as women will allow us to do. This is all deemed as correct in relation to societal norms. When you look at where women are now compared to the struggle and lack of civil liberties they had before, it is progress but there is still progress to be made.
When you think about the Black culture in general, oppression is one of the first things you think about, whether you intend to or not. As it comes to Black people they were not able to speak when they felt like it and if you were technical they were not able to speak or voice an opinion to anyone but a person who looked like them and knew what they were going through. Over the time this notion has changed, but how much though? When you look at society now you see these black people who voice their opinion all the time. But the problems comes with since everyone has the civil liberty of freedom of speech, everyone can voice their opinion but who will actually listen and take heed or action from what you are saying. If people are speaking just to be speaking and no one is listening or acting than what does it matter that they are speaking. This sense of freedom of speech is great because unlike other cultures where there is one set of opinions for everyone, here, everyone is able to voice their own opinion. As Black people, however is this notion of communication that has been given to everyone something that is taken for granted or just overlooked.
When you look at other cultures and compare what they deem as communication and what we deem as communication and freedom of speech, where does the difference lie? Yes we are able to state our opinion on any matter whenever and however we would like, but just because we state our opinion does not mean people will listen. If people do not listen and just continue to do what is deemed normal in society, then are we still restricting communication. What’s the difference between my ability to express myself and other people’s ability to not do the same? If no one is listening we are both having the same effect, which is not effect at all.