Scrolling through social media, I come across another “10 things you shouldn’t say” post. It dawns on me that I have read a lot of these sorts of posts lately.
- 10 things you should never say to your wife (don’t get so emotional!)
- 10 things you should never say to a mother of twins (are they identical?)
- 10 things you should never say to a New Zealander (which part of Australia is that?)
- 10 things you should never say to a pregnant woman (you look like you’re about to pop!)
- 10 things you should never say to an overweight person (are you sure you should be eating that?
- 10 things you should never say to a stay at home mum (what do you do all day?)
People say some mind numbingly insensitive, thoughtless, stupid things sometimes. Occasionally they will be mean-spirited. But usually their comments are just poorly formed.
When they ask “are they identical?” they mean “Crikey these babies all look the same to me, I can’t tell one from the other, that one that’s dribbling looks a bit dodgy ,and I had better quickly think of something to say, to show I am interested”
When they say “which part of Australia is that” they mean “I don’t know ANYTHING about your country, but I am going to pretend to be interested as you seem like a nice person. I know I should have paid more attention in geography, but hey, you are only 127th in the world, so umm….”
They are not taking aim. They are just trying to keep the conversation going, with woefully little in the conversation tank.
So how do we react? If you go by social media advice, we immediately get defensive (how dare they speak to me like that!), we get insecure (I can’t believe they are not interested), and we get a bit sanctimonious (next time you speak to me, I suggest you avoid these topics…)
Is it any wonder we have so many communication problems?
I believe words are extremely important. The impact of words lingers for a long time. Speaking with respect, with care and in truth will guarantee an enjoyable exchange. But meeting thoughtless musings with defensiveness and bossiness just closes that interaction down for ever.
Just because those words have been said doesn’t mean you must take them on board
Those words don’t have to touch you. You don’t have to take them as a stab or an attack. They are just a few words among the thousands you will hear today. As here’s the thing…if you are confident in yourself, thoughtless words don’t touch you. The musings of a poorly -informed stranger will just bounce harmlessly off your shiny self-esteem.
If however, you are seeking validation from this person, or approval, their comments will feel like personalised insults. They are not. Don’t overdramatise their intentions. They probably didn’t set out today intending to upset you.
So you have a choice how to respond
If you don’t want a future with his person, roll your eyes, and move on. You might even feel compassion for them and their poor emotional intelligence.
If you do want to keep them in your life, then enlighten them, educate them on what you need.
Use that thoughtless jibe as an opportunity to practice your own language skills. Speak your truth, stay respectful. But don’t lecture them and disconnect. Use it as an opportunity to connect in a different way.
To the “don’t get so emotional” jab, your instinctive response might be ranting furiously, telling them you regret getting hitched to them in the first place, and that they are emotionally stilted. It probably won’t get you far.
You could try “you’re right, I am sounding very angry. But that’s because I have been simmering over this for days. I should speak up sooner. Here’s what’s going on for me…” or “I am acting angry, because deep down I am feeling disconnected from you…” or even “You’re right. Emotion is way overrated in a marriage. We should ban it immediately. But there will be no sex sorry, cause that tends to be a bit emotional for me”
To the ‘What do you do all day?’ question you can reply with “well a stay at home mum is equal parts parent and housekeeper, so I do a bit of both, over and over all day long. I feed, clean, tidy, cook, wash and calm things down. Then I do it all again. And again. It takes a lot of time.” Or even a slightly sarcastic “I am training mini humans; they are so complex! So much repetition needed just to teach the basics. I’m teaching nutrition skills, emotional self-regulation, hygiene habits and counting….” etc
Whatever your response it definitely should not be “I can’t believe you asked that! Do you have any idea what I do? I know you think I’m not important, but I am, I am!”
See the difference? Own your reality. Don’t apologise for it. Find all your validation inside and NEVER go looking for it from other people. And whatever you say, do it with pride and confidence. Because you are really good with who you are, and don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.