While perusing my Facebook feed last week, I saw this status update from a friend of mine.
While playing at the park, I was asked the million dollar question " are they triplets?". I replied "yes, they are". She then said "that's awful". Seriously I had to walk away because I would have told her off.
We have all had someone say something really stupid, or insensitive to us. Right? How do you respond to comments like this?
I applaud my friend for actually walking away and not telling the woman off. Good communicators know the value of self control. Good communicators also know the value of confronting inappropriate behavior.
Why in the world did that woman say that?
If you are like me, when I first read the status, I was angry that someone would make such a comment to my friend who is a wonderful mom. What would possess a person to say such a thing?
One word: Under-identification.
In communication, under-identification is the inability to relate. We all have unique situations that ignite the curiosity of others. Something that is normal to you, like having triplets, is foreign to others. Because it is foreign, it sparks curiosity and musings.
I believe the woman's internal musing went something like this:
"What would it be like to have multiples?"
"How on earth would I handle multiple kids of the same age?"
"What would it be like if I had 3 Johnnies running underfoot?"
And after all the internal musing, the verbal response was "That is awful".
This fictional musing, doesn't excuse the woman from the insensitive comment. Nor does it nullify the hurt and frustration it caused my friend. But it does bring freedom.
Knowing communication skills like under-identification frees us from taking on unnecessary burdens. It allows us to see that the comment was more about the speaker and not a death sentence for my friend.
We have to teach ourselves to re-frame our thought, otherwise we would go crazy and spend a lifetime offended by comments from others.
Why you should confront?
I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. I believe in confrontation as well. I think confrontation has gotten a bad name thanks to the Jerry Springer show and other "reality TV" series where people settle disputes with fists and screaming matches.
If that is what confrontation is, who wants to do that?
I believe (and this is how I coach my clients) that confrontation done well is a caring thing to do. It shows you care about yourself and others.
Care for self:
You have to respect yourself enough to NOT put undue stress on yourself. Avoidance is a confrontation style that brings stress. Habitually, ignoring your emotions or opinions is disrespectful. Learn how to release frustration in healthy ways.
Care for others:
Good communicators are respectful of others. This means they learn how to communicate and confront in a way that demonstrates respect to others.
Develop your communication strategy
If you have a situation that constantly sparks curiosity from others, you need to develop a communication strategy that you can use repeatedly. If you don't, you will be at the whim of your emotions and other people's opinions.
It is crucial to determine how to handle inquiries, comments, or requests in a way that respects self and others. Having a communication strategy takes the guess work out of how to respond. It also helps you feel less frustrated.
I applaud my friend for walking away, I do. But one day when the stress of being a parent (times 3) is taking its toll and the 1000th person makes an asinine comment, my friend isn't going to walk away. Without a communication strategy, she is going to tell that person where to go and how fast they can get there!
When we bottle up our emotions because we don't have a healthy way to release the pressure, we explode on people and embarrass ourselves.
Here is how you can develop your single communication. Ask yourself these three questions:
1. Who do I want to be?
Determine the type of person you want to be. Develop a strategy to support that. How you communicate with others should be an outward expression of the person you are striving to be. Do you want a reputation of being mean or vindictive? Do you want a reputation of being kind? Don't misunderstand, kindness is not weakness.
2. What do I want to say?
Be honest about what you want to say. Position yourself as a thermostat. Thermostats set the temperature, they don't reflect it. What do you want to say, not when you are in a bad mood or in defensive mode, but in a good mood?
3. How can I say this in a way that shows that I respect myself and the other person?
Find the words that clearly and honestly communicate your message. That is your communication strategy. Now you just say it over and over.
After developing a communication strategy, the dialogue could sound something like this:
Lady: "That is awful!"
Friend: "On the contrary, it is a complete blessing. Sure it has it's challenges but there is nothing I would trade to witness these three different personalities grow and explore. Have a great day!"
My friend doesn't have to be the "stupid triplet statement" police. Trolling the playgrounds looking to put people in their place. No! She doesn't have to explain her parenting style or strategy. She doesn't have to feel small or judged.
She can just be free to enjoy herself and her family because she knows how to handle herself.
Her communication strategy helps her focus on demonstrating respectful relationships: qualities that three sets of eyes are carefully watching to see how to do.
There will be times when you have to confront inappropriate behavior not only to correct others, but to keep your own peace. Be sure to be ready.
Do you have a situation that needs a communication strategy?
Maybe you endure comments from your parents or in-laws about your children. Dealing with family can be tricky. Contact me for a FREE 15 minute session to help you craft a statement that will free you from the frustration.
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