When Small Choices Make a Big Difference
By Dr. Janet Joyce
I was sitting at the restaurant enjoying my bowl of Mediterranean pasta salad and listening to the conversation at the table next to mine. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but the grandparents were being rather loud while obviously admonishing the two teenage girls they were with.
“I’m 70 years old. You should be able to keep up with my pace on the bicycle,” said the man.
“You need to get out and get more exercise,” said the woman, with a disapproving look toward the obviously tired and forlorn young women.
I looked carefully at the faces of the girls and saw dejection and a palpable sense of having fallen short of the expectations of the adults in their company.
I sat there, picking through my olives and feta cheese, wondering what these adults thought they were accomplishing, when I realized that they were doing just what so many parents (and grandparents) do when faced with a situation that could be a teachable moment.
They mistake judgment and criticism for instruction and support. They use harsh or hurtful tactics to make their point without thinking about the real consequences of their approach.
Sure, they will teach a lesson, but it won’t be the one they think they are teaching.
Use The Way-Back Machine
Back up just a bit and scroll through your own database of memories that fall within this category. Did you ever feel that disapproval or sense of condemnation coming from important adults whose opinions of you were among the cornerstones of your own internal barometer of who you are? I know I have.
The net result for me was that I felt that I wanted and needed to distance myself emotionally from those adults. I felt hurt, misunderstood, disrespected and a clear impression that I was a real disappointment. In retrospect, I know that’s not what they intended to convey, but indeed, that’s the lesson I learned.
Even without knowing the beautiful young girls at the next table, I can tell that’s what was going through their minds as they stared absently into the napkins in their laps.
Many of us have had similar experiences, and yet we fall into the same pattern when relating to others, even though we know it was painful for us. There is a lesson to be learned for sure, but not by the young girls. The lesson here is for the adults.
What To Think Before You Speak
Relationships that are meaningful, deeply felt opportunities for spiritual and personal enhancement are not made up of unconscious moments of judgment and criticism. They are created intentionally through acts and words that reflect thoughtfulness, sensitivity and a true desire to understand and appreciate those around us.
In order to accomplish this, we must think through our words before they escape directly from the brain and drop onto the tongue, fleeing the mouth without so much as a second thought. It takes a bit more work, but more often than not it’s worth it.
So, take a moment before you react or respond and:
- Think about the end result you want to achieve.
- Think about the feelings and needs of the person you are speaking to.
- Think whether or not the words you are about to say will serve to bring you closer in a deeply meaningful way to the receiver of your message.
- Think through the words you are about to say before you say them.
How To Use Your Crystal Ball
Imagine for a moment that you could create a true sense of closeness and loving connection with the people you care about most in your life. Project yourself into a future where there is respect, openness, creative problem solving and the free-flow of ideas and solutions even to the most challenging of issues or problems.
This is the world that you can create every single day by simply recognizing that you are making a choice when you react and speak to those around you. You are choosing the type of relationships you want to have each and every time you speak to your children or your grandchildren or your partner or your boss. It’s not magic, and it doesn’t even take a high degree of skill or training. It’s a simple choice, based on a simple thought.
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