“You want to be a WHAT?”
“You’re kidding aren’t you?”
No he wasn’t kidding. On the contrary, he was enthusiastic and keen, in spite of my less than encouraging response.
Will I ever learn? When dealing with family and close friends I must try to remember some of the tried and true rules for effective communication. My scorecard when I’m at work isn’t too bad. At home, it’d be fair to say there’s room for improvement.
Rules include, but are not limited by the following list:
a: be calm and measured in tone to any announcement, no matter how radical
b: do not shriek
c: be rational
d: discuss openly and calmly the pros and cons of announcements
e: do not under any circumstances look horrified – body language IS important. Any grimace, frown, twitch or blink will be regarded as negative
f: be encouraging
g: do not impose own paranoia/prejudices on others
h: spluttering or chocking is a definite no no
Blast! I’d broken the lot of them…again.
But really, a driving instructor? I couldn’t think of anything worse…well that’s not exactly true; being a trauma cleaner would have to be up there, and accounting doesn’t excite me, neither does cleaning windows on a skyscraper, or anything at all to do with heights, or being the first person in a submersible, and I don’t think I’d like to go to Mars. But a driving instructor, ugh. Where on earth had that idea come from? I’d be TERRIFIED.
When it comes to ones nearest and dearest, it’s hard to maintain the composure and demeanour that would automatically kick in when ‘on the job’. My professional life is on hold for the weekend and I’m relaxed and off guard. So, of course, way too often an uncensored response escapes.
A friend had a similar reaction (although with more expletives) when her son announced he wanted to be a stunt man. I remember fear gripping my stomach when my teenaged daughter said she wanted to do free diving. Some statements seem designed to elicit a dramatic reaction. (Now there’s an understatement!) You tend to want to say “Over my dead body”, and forbid the activity.
Unfortunately, off the cuff, horrified responses are more likely to close the lines of communication rather than open them. By this I mean close effective lines of communication – giving the cold shoulder, arguing and shouting do not count in this instance as communication. And it’s best to keep the communication going, particularly with ones nearest and dearest, including the teenagers! Especially when they’re going through the grunt phase.
So next time, I’m going to try and remember to include the following:
· Mmmm, that’s interesting
· Tell me more
· Where could you get more information?
· Wow, really! I’ve always wondered where those guys get insurance, do you know?
· Who could you talk to about that idea?
· Do you think you could get some work experience?
· Do you think it’d be possible to do a course?
· Or even: Gosh, really? What appeals to you about that?
To give myself time to think, I feign absorbed interest in the task at hand, whether it be chopping vegetables or hanging out the washing, or some other mundane task. It works wonders, as you can chew on a carrot stick or a peg and pretend to get it wedged in your teeth. This gives you a reason for spluttering which naturally has nothing at all to do with the bombshell announcement.
By responding “nicely” there’s less chance of a retreat into a sullen shell (it might still happen, but could be due to shock at the oh so rational response). An added bonus is that the whim (often) evaporates, self esteem increases (after all you’ve responded adult to adult) and mutual respect can grow.
Pretty neat huh!