Thursday, September 2, 2010

Foot in mouth

“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!



Cruella Collett said...

Oh, but you know, kids these days, they've been driving in videogames and whatnot since infancy, so they are already professional drivers by the time they get to driver's ed...

Okay, maybe not so much. But I'm sure he'll be fine (even though I agree - I have no idea what anyone would find appealing about that job). And your list of appropriate responses is great. Maybe if I memorize it I will think of the right thing to say in the future when something like that happens to me? My friends make terrible choices all the time, so I should have plenty of opportunity to use them...

Boonie S said...

Interesting and amusing post. Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonie

sue said...

teehee, thanks Cruella, I'm sure your driving reply was tongue in cheek! Yes, no?

It's always handy to have a good repertoire of responses for those awkward occasions - just to prevent that unfortunate 'foot in mouth' moment.

Boonie, thanks for visiting

Helen said...

Now Sue, he could have said he wanted to be a pooper scooper or something worse. Keep in mind, that eventually you'll reach a point where you'd be happy if he had any job, even teaching others to drive. (Doesn't sound so bad now, does it?)


sue said...

Helen, thanks for putting the relative wonderfulness of driving instructor in perspective. You're quite right, that any job is better than none. Thanks for the support. FYI the latest idea is to be a masseur...

Boonie S said...

I know that I've commented before, but I just wanted to add that I love your rules, and I love even more that you broke them all. Ride on!

All the best, Boonie

sue said...

Hey there Boonie, consider it done! Second time comments are most welcome. Keep centipede free :)

Liza said...

You offer valuable suggestions. Yes, if I could only bite my tongue and think before speaking. I'm visiting you from Straight from Hel and am delighted to find a blogger who lives in the same state as my sister...many thousands of miles from where we grew up. Congratulations on earning Helen's "sweet" award.

sue said...

Thanks Liza. I'm pleased u visited. Sorry about the late response. I've had trouble with access. Should b easier soon I hope