Today at lunch, my mother-in law was talking about someone putting words in her mouth. My daughter immediately added “I put food in my mouth.” Not long ago, after she heard her older brother jokingly call his friend a loser, she said “ I'm a finder”. The other day when I mentioned a pet peeve, she said “my pet’s name is LuLu Belle.”
Also today, I read Gretchen Rubin’s blog post in The Happiness Project. She talked about making angry comments and faces and how quick flared words can sour the mood at home and leave her feeling guilty which leaves her even more irritable than before she lost her temper. Rubin was looking for advice on how to stop the cycle. The comments ranged from getting enough to eat and sleep to taking a deep breath during a troubling encounter, calming down and thinking before you speak. My two cents were to treat the ones we love like the ones we like. Because I have never lost control of my emotions around a friend or acquaintance the way I do with my spouse and kids.
But after thinking about my daughter’s literal view of the world, I would like to add one more piece of advice to that list. Say what you mean. That doesn’t mean giving up figurative language, it means being more direct. Whether I am trying to avoid a conflict or hurting someone’s feelings or just not wanting to share my true feelings on a topic, I am not always forthright. Or worse, there are some passive aggressive habits that have become just that, habit, in my marriage. Whether I am communicating that way to my children or not, undoubtedly, they are hearing and learning from it.
Before I can be direct, I have to be aware of my thoughts and feelings. So all that other advice plays a role in avoiding snarky comments that are quick tempered but long lived.
Am I tired? Am I hungry? Have I thought about if I am really mad about this situation or am I angry about a past experience that is resurfacing? Do I know what I do want when faced with something I don’t? Have I paused to breathe and see it from the other person’s perspective before launching ahead on assumption?
Are you direct? If so, do you have advice on how to be direct and polite?