Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Power Of Words

Often times the difference between being (feeling like) a good mom vs. a bad mom, or being a happy person vs. a not-so-fun-to-be-with person is all in our vocabulary. Below are some common sayings that, if twisted just a bit, can really determine how we feel about ourselves and how other people perceive us.

"I'm so tired" This phrase tells people that you are weary, inconvenienced, unhappy, and want to be left alone (and so most people will leave you alone). A better thing to say could be: "You know, right now I really need to enjoy some snuggly sit down time." This tells people that you know when your body needs to rest but that you are going to enjoy it. It also hints that you are open to having a guest come and sit/snuggle with you. Or you could say, "I'm taking a break for a bit to reenergize." This way you aren't focusing on your fatigue and sounding like a martyr but rather like a woman who is usually full of energy, knows her limits, and is taking care of herself so that she can carry on with work that she values.

"You're going to have to wait just a minute." or "Just a second." Most people, especially children, know that this means you might get back to them in 1/2 hour or more. That is, IF you even remember them later. It also makes people feel like you value whatever you are doing more than you value them. Often the thing the other person needs won't take more than a minute anyway. A better thing to say when you are being interrupted for a favor is, "Let me set this aside for just a minute and see what I can do." This lets the person know that you are more than willing to help, but also that you have work that you need to get back to in a short amount of time. Everyone wins here and the relationship between you and the person you are helping will greatly benefit. Besides, you will want them to return the favor when you need to interupt them for some quick help.

"What were you thinking?" No one likes to hear this question. It is rude and the answer is obvious... they weren't. I know I don't want someone asking me this when I eat a doughnut while dieting, or when I forget to return a rental video on time, and I've seen my kids cringe every time I've asked it of them. A better approach is to say, "I'm not sure what you were thinking when you did this but lets see if we can fix it." This shows that even though you may not understand their motives you are willing to help them fix it, making you a source of support, instead of an accuser to run away from.

"I am not in the mood." or "I'm not in the mood for this!" This proclaims that you are a moody person because you depend on moods to govern your actions. And how are the people around you supposed to understand you or help you if they have to guess what mood you're in or what mood you need to be in to handle the situation? Help everyone out by being more specific and give detailed responses like: "I need you to know that my head is hurting and so when you guys fight it makes me hurt. Would you please stop fighting until my head feels better?" Or, "In order for me to fully enjoy (insert activity here) I need to feel like the house is in order. Would you like to help me finish the dishes so that I can play with you?" Or, "I love you and want to be with you but I think I need to cool of and relax for just a minute before I do. If you could care for the kids while a slip away for a hot bath I would come out a new woman and better able to return your affection." When you are detailed you switch from being "moody" to being a normal person who has needs just like everyone else. People can understand that and are more likely to help (I only promise "likely") if they know exactly what you need.

"Not right now." If this is all you say you might as well say, "Not ever." This is another time when some specifics could really help. Let them know why "right now" is a "right now" and then tell them how they will be able to tell when "right now" is over. So, you could say something along the lines of, "If you wait until I'm done changing this diaper you will get a better answer." Kids really appreciate this one, "When I'm upset at one of your siblings it is always a good idea to wait until I'm not frowning anymore before you talk to me." Husbands appreciate, "I'm afraid that if we try to deal with this at this moment I will say things to you that you don't deserve. Can you wait until I approach you with it, or at least until tomorrow so that I have time to deal with it rationally?"

"How many times have I told you...?" Obviously it really doesn't matter how many times you've told them so this is a pointless question. Take a deep breath and try something new. You can present it this way, "I know I've told you... several times but I don't think my telling you is helping. What is something we can do to help you remember so that you don't get in trouble?" Kids, and anyone else, need to know that you don't want to get mad at them. Helping find a workable solution is so much better than making them feel stupid for not remembering. Try something nonverbal to help them. Make signs, roll play the situation, use a fun code word or phrase that will help them remember, walk them through it every time until it becomes a habit, or remove the means of offense.

Some other great vocab changes you can make are:
Say, "I love you" instead of just "goodbye" or "goodnight."
Try saying "Yes!" more often than you say "No" or "We'll see."
Say, "Let's improve it by..." rather than "It's not right."

Try using words that make people smile when you speak. For instance, when my over questioning 5 year old asks me the eternal question, "Why?" I have stopped saying, "Because" and now say, "Because I love you." It may be a silly answer but he smiles whenever I say it. When my children ask what we are having for dinner I used to say, "Food." because I knew if I told them what we were having they would start whining before they had even tasted it. Now when they ask I say, "We are having something special that big kids love to eat. But it has a magic spell on it that makes it only taste good if you try it two times." This makes them laugh at me but also makes them interested rather than fearful. I'm presently working very hard on changing my vocabulary and I must say that the results have all been good. I am also, slowly, learning the very high value of giving myself time to think before I respond to people. I'm hoping that with enough practice and verbal/mental exercise I can train my mouth to keep time with my heart so that I can reduce the amount of damage my quick tongue can produce.


Crockpot Lady said...

wow--that is some good advice. I'm guilty of a lot of those sayings.

Misty said...

I can't help it. This post totally made me laugh.

I think I say the "right" things a lot of the time. I think I say the "wrong" things a lot of the time.

I've come to realize, in myself, I just can't afford to care. I can't do it right for every one, all the time, and if I'm being judged for my lack of class, so be it.

I also realize that, it NEVER hurts to be more kind and more thoughtful about the words we chose to express. That, I work on every day. Especially when kindness escapes me. For me, true strength comes from self control, with the out put of love, when I find it the most hardest to do so.

You rock.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Oooo, I hope I'm not coming off as judgmental in this post. I'm just writing the things that I'm ever so slowly learning. I was raised hearing the "wrong" things and I say them all the time. It wasn't until I put myself in my child's place that I realized how I was sounding.

Anonymous said...

I am not always so good at this kind of thing.

Thanks for the advice!

There are better and sweeter ways to say things!

Becks said...

This is really cool. I love that you explained what message the wrong phrase can send, and what message the right phrase can send. Beautifully explained. Thank you. I'm going to post your suggestions on my refrigerator.

An Ordinary Mom said...

This is a great parenting post! Thanks for sharing the things you have learned.

And by the way? The ice cream in your sidebar looks so delicious right now :) !!

just jamie said...

I love, "Because I love you." I'll start using that today.

Good reminders. Why, you ask? "Because I said so." I mean, "Because I love you."

Mo Mommy said...

I am guilty of SO many of these. Often it's because I haven't taken the time to think of anything better.(Nor have I even wanted to in most cases) You offer good explanations and alternatives, thanks!

Tama said...

Wow! That is some of the best advice I've heard in a long time! Did you say you had a degree in psychology or something:) That was really great. Thank you.

Maria said...

That's great. Thanks for the tips! BTW, that ice cream looks great! I am going to try a shake tonight at Steak and Shake. Did you ever have one? I'll let you know all about it.

Happy face said...

Good advice, and well worded suggestions. Thank you.

Misty said...

Lizzy, I know you're not being judgmental, and I totally appreciated what you had to say. I took it to heart.

And there I go again saying the wrong things!! (wink)

It was a cute post. And good thoughts. Some I'm trying to use myself, because as you can see..... I have a lot of refining to do!

I adore you. ((hug))

cellista said...

Great post! I hate the "how many times have I told you?" DH says it a lot to the boys and I always want to say "87" or some other number. Though I'll admit I'm guilty of speaking without thinking way too often, especially to those closest to me. Thank you for the reminder to really think about what I say. I needed it :)

Traci said...

LOVE the advice of giving specifics - that's where I fall a little short. I just want people to KNOW what I'm thinking. ;) I caould totally see my kids eyes lighting up if I talked to them more this way. Thanks for the ideas!

Cocoa said...

Sage advice! One change I made that has had huge rewards - instead of answering "What?" when my children call me, I answer with "Yes?". I don't know why it has made such a difference but it has.

kay said...

i'm so glad i came over to visit via crockpot lady.

as a homeschool mom too i find myself saying these things just to get one tiny second for myself. but i have to remember it's not about me and find a different way to say things.

thanks!! i'll be back for more advice!

Tama said...

I got tagged and now I am tagging you! Tell us 7 random things about you then pass the tag along.

Michal said...

thanks for the reminders. i especially am guilty of "just a minute." or "not now."

Family Adventure said...

It is good advice, this! Misty is right, too, in that we are not ever going to be perfect...there will be slipups (numerous, if you're in my shoes :)), but it never hurts to try to be kinder.

Thanks for the reminder to think before I speak :)


Roses Are Red, Violets are Violet said...

oh my goodness did I need that. The one that really stuck out to me was the "how many times have I told you....? Because my too-smart-for-his-own-good 6 year old will usually retort back with "three." (or whatever the correct number is)
It only makes me madder.

I think I might frame this post!

Sonja said...

Fantastic post. I agree that delivery is everything. It's hard for me though. I'm trying. Little by little. This was a great reminder.

I also liked, "Because I love you."

Jen said...

Great post. And one I needed to read on a day when I am so very, very tired. :)

Childlife said...

This was a most excellent post! : ) Lots of great suggestions for better communication... I just laughed at your suggestions for substituting "Not right now" and particularly identified with the diaper-changing scenario :D Brilliant!

Gray Matters said...

Thanks for the great post - it is easy to forget how easily words can affect people. What bugs me is when people tell say "You look tired". Immediately, even if I just had 8 hours of sleep, I find myself dragging and wondering what's wrong with me!

Magirk said...

I thought this was a great post.

I stopped in to read it from a link on Sariqd's blog (La la la laaaahhhh!)

Very thought provoking, well written, and something I could pay attention to. ;)