Midwestern Mom's Musings

My view of the world through words & photos

Stop Yelling at Me!

Years ago, when my daughter first started playing soccer, she gave us a wonderful story to share with other parents.  She got control of the ball and was working her way down the field toward the goal.  She was running and kicking just like their coach had drilled with them for hours in the proceeding week.  As she got closer and closer to the goal, we parents kept shouting louder and louder, “Go, Beka, go!  Go, Beka, go!”

She came up the field and started to pass us while we cheered and cheered, “Go, Beka, go!  Go, Beka, go!”  About three feet beyond the parent group, she suddenly stopped.  “Beka,” I called. “What’s wrong?”  With all the seriousness a five-year-old can present, she put her clenched hands on her hips and shouted at us, “Stop yelling at me!”

A moment of shocked silence was followed by a burst of laughter.  It only took four words for our understanding of what this little girl needed to change.  We thought we were showing a huge amount of support…she didn’t see it that way at all!  And her perception is what counted.

Now that Beka understands why we were yelling at the time, she laughs along with us when the story is told.  It did get me thinking, though.  How often do we do or say something we think is the right thing to do or say, but it isn’t received or perceived in the spirit in which it was given?

I’m learning with kids, especially teenagers, to take a moment to stop and think about how what I’m going to say may be received.  How would I, as a teenager, feel if I heard someone say (fill in the blank).  I’m also learning to use this technique with other adults.  While I sometimes feel like I’m writing scripts in my head, it has often helped me avoid saying something that might be misinterpreted.  (I don’t always succeed, but I think I’m getting better.)

I offer these thoughts because we have been receiving a great deal of comments from friends and family in regard to multiple challenges we’ve been dealing with during the past few years.  I have been sharing updates primarily by e-mail and Facebook since our friends and family live all over the country.  I try to choose my words carefully because the written word doesn’t have vocal tones to help convey the message (and because I know that anything you say or do nowadays can suddenly go viral).  I work hard not to hit that send button until I’ve read something over several times and thought about it from a few different angles.

So here are a few things I’ve learned from being on the receiving end of comments that weren’t well thought out:

  • When a surprising test result comes up after a series of tests, it doesn’t help to tell the person or his family: “I can’t believe they didn’t find that earlier.”
  • Something simple like “Thinking of you” or “Praying for you all” means a great deal as opposed to silence.
  • If details aren’t offered and you aren’t family or a very close friend, don’t keep asking for specifics.  There’s probably a reason the details weren’t offered.  Your questioning is only making the situation awkward.
  • If they don’t ask you for your opinion, you don’t have to offer it.  Sometimes people just want [read: need] to vent.
  • Don’t try to top their story.  If they or their family member had a complication, do not recount a story where you or a relative had a related, but much worse, situation.  Families dealing with crises are all trying to maintain a positive outlook.   Your tale of woe isn’t going to help.
  • “Let me know how I can help” is one of the most challenging comments to hear.  We know you mean well but most of us automatically say, “I will” and never ask for that help.  One of the last things I want to admit is that I can’t handle it all.  Asking for help could be seen as a sign of weakness and I can’t afford to be weak in front of my loved one or my kids.  Checking things off my To Do list helps me think I’m on top of everything…even if I’m not.  There are lots of things that would help, but I feel too self-conscious to ask.  Offer to do something specific.  I really appreciated my friend who wrote, “I’m going to make your family dinner.  Would Wednesday, Thursday or Friday be the best day for me to bring it to your home?”
  • It is exhausting recounting the current status of the challenge over and over again to well-meaning inquiries.  So please understand if your question of concern is answered with a short response.  And don’t forget to ask how the other members of the family are doing.  They are often trying to carry on with as normal a life as possible and would love to talk about anything but the current challenge.

Most importantly, do keep them in your thoughts and prayers.  It may sound trite, but the power of prayer is an amazing thing.  My husband and I have often commented to each other that we can actually feel a positive energy when we know people are praying for us during a particularly challenging time.  And we give prayers of thanksgiving for all that we receive.


3 comments on “Stop Yelling at Me!

  1. Gloria Barotta
    June 15, 2012

    Yeah! I love that you are blogging.

  2. sharon
    June 15, 2012

    I love your advice to resist topping a friend’s challenging situation. This is a wonderful post!

  3. Mary Meyer
    June 15, 2012

    I am going to have to share your blogs with my kids, who now have and are having kids! Love your advice! Mary

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2012 by in Communication and tagged , , , .
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