“If I was a junkman, selling you cars, washing your windows and shining your stars; Thinking your mind was my own in a dream; What would you wonder and how would it seem? … singing words …words …”
— Neil Young, “Words”
I don’t know anyone who’s had a conversation sometime in their life without putting their foot in their mouth at least once. In the heat of passion, in the heat of authority, in the thick of excitement, we are not always careful about our words or we take our words and the thoughts that tether them for granted. Will they leave a pothole or fill one up on that road of life?
A dear friend of mine went to a professional workshop and was struck not only with the artistic inspiration learned but, as a student herself, some important communication skills, those being based on assumption and expectation — “There were two of us adults learning the same thing and we both got stuck … I think of how many times I mentioned in class with kids, ‘I know who was NOT paying attention!’ Geez, I WAS paying attention and still missed it …
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“Another day, I told my students to pick up the pace, I’d done the same thing in this-much-time! This boy said to me, calmly, ‘Yeah, but you know how to do this!’ I told him right then and there as the truth of it struck me, ‘You know, you’re right!’ I just woke up to whole new perspective!”
It is so often about perspective. Try to:
• Avoid seeming judgmental;
• Make sure people feel heard and understood;
• Be aware of individual differences; and
• Watch for nonverbal signals — frustration, inattention for whatever reason, etc.
Personal relationships, whether with LOML or offspring, are a real proving ground in the area of expressing oneself effectively. I’ve recently been working on that. Even with the kids grown up, it’s important to continue being aware of what’s lurking below the surface and:
• Calm down (breathe, count, etc.);
• Understand and empathize with what is really troubling other people (some times that is the hardest part, getting the other person to express what is truly troubling them, what’s at the heart of the matter); and
• Understand yourself, including what’s really troubling you and what you really want.
In any of these situations, using positive body language, whether you’re feeling it or not, will help convey positivity — head up, maintain eye contact and smile (at least a little!). We forget that others may be struggling or fearful of something we may not even be aware of. Help them.
In these days of instant messaging and information at light speed, we sometimes forget that we’re human. We have so many things to do/teach/experience in one day that sometimes we lose the most basic of all skills, listening and feeling.
If we slow down, step outside our head to look around once in a while, separate then from now, we might remember to listen to others. And feeling — how does your gut feel when you have certain words perched on the tip of your tongue or when you catch them falling off someone else’s? It’s a place to start.