by Wendy McDonnell
When my oldest son was younger than five years old, he would place his hands over his ears and yell, “Too many words!”, when I would ask him about how he was feeling.
What seemed like a simple question to me, was overwhelming to him. I wanted to help him. The number of words or the way I said them was ineffective at communicating my message of caring and love. I wanted that to be heard. I also wanted to nurture my son when he felt frustrated, so, I tried something else.
I learned to speak with as few words as possible. I often choose silence first. I chose silence because I often don’t know what to say next. Ideally, I want whatever I say to mean something.
On the surface, I may look like I am doing nothing.
Inside, I am deeply connecting to my desire to understand and love fully. I want that love between me and my children. Then, I dwell in the beauty of what it’s like to understand and love with all my heart. I feel loving having those thoughts. Even now, as I write that, I feel soft and warm. I’m ready to listen.
Sometimes, that’s all I need to do: sit alongside my children in this beautiful, active silence and we both feel calmer.
If I feel some caring, loving urge to use words because I think they may contribute to understanding, I try to break them down into smaller chunks:
Let’s look at an example. “Are you feeling frustrated because it’s not working out the way you hoped?”
I try, “Are you feeling frustrated?” and then pause.
If that’s too long, next time, I may try, “Frustrated?”
I say and feel the words with curiosity and warmth in my body and voice.
When he seems to feel a bit calmer and ready to listen, I might add, “Trouble getting it to work?” or “Not working, eh?” and then pause.
Truth be told, I still blurt out too many words in what must feel like bombardment to the senses. Those are moments to be compassionate for myself. I can always try again then or next time. After all, all of us are learning all the time.
Communication is essentially sending and receiving messages. If my message doesn’t get through the way I was hoping, I can change the way I send it to make myself clearer.
I welcome your comments.
Was that useful or not?
Have you tried anything like this before? If so, what happened?
What have you noticed about connecting with your kids or partner? What works? What doesn’t?