Recently, one of my children asked me a simple question. I’m not sure if I want to share the situation here because it will make me look bad and petty.
I was working on getting ready for bed, satisfying the needs of the child currently at level 11 on the grumpy meter, and fighting through a momentary lapse in kindness to my spouse over a broken glass cleanup project in our kitchen.
I’d been struggling with my asthma a bit more, so I ran downstairs to grab my inhaler and while I was back up in my twin boys’ bedroom, getting everybody ready to head to bed, one of my 9 year old twins said, “Dad, what’s that in your hand?”
My response – with more irritation than the question warranted, “Dude. It’s my inhaler. You’ve seen it a million times. You should know.” (scoffy harumph-type-of-noise after my quick, sharp answer before I walk out of the room).
Now you can say that is no big deal. You’ve been there. You, too, hate dumb questions from kids who should know the answer. Or you could say, “Hey man, give your kid a break. He’s just trying to connect with you and right now his method is ‘asking obvious questions.'”
The Post-Situation Reflection…
Some friends say I’m hard on myself to worry about little incidents like that because we all have them. I say that it’s important to reflect on the way we react or respond to people because patterns can easily develop.
What I realized is that maybe I should take a short pause in as many conversations as possible because my first reaction is not always the response I want to define the situation.
Do we want to be known for exasperated, quick ‘shoot you down to size’ responses to everybody?
Do we want to practice our sharp wit on those close to us to prove our points?
Do we want to “win” conversations or grow relationships?
Difficult Decisions Everyday
How we respond to people in our lives is one of the most difficult, group of micro-decisions we make everyday.
If we deconstruct each conversation, we realize our interactions are comprised of multiple decisions:
- What we will say.
- How we will say what we say.
- Transparency vs. hedging.
- Working hard to be understood vs. working hard to understand.
- And a ton others.
Conversations move so swiftly and our hearts are not always in the right place to take a pause before our responses – or reactions.
I’m not sure I have one. Sometimes, just being aware of the facts of the problem gives us some starting point to begin recognizing our issues around this when we have them.
- When we notice some regret after a conversation.
- When we notice some bit of “they deserved that” self-justification after a conversation.
- When we notice any other yuck feeling after a conversation.
We might be receiving clues that we’re not taking a moment to quickly filter our responses in an effort to build, empathize, and encourage vs. to win, defend, and tear down.
Like so many other things in life, it takes awareness and practice. Repeat. Awareness and practice. Repeat.
But it is worth the effort because our relationships are the most important things in our lives.
For an additional resource on this topic, check out this series “Me and My Big Mouth” by Andy Stanley.