Communication fascinates me. This is one of the reasons why I love being a communication trainer and coach. Communication is like breathing, it’s happening through every person every minute of the day. Communication breakdowns are inevitable no matter how thoughtful we are. As a communication trainer, I can become an observer/researcher to distract myself from negatively reacting (sometimes) as I did on a recent family visit.
The opportunity to learn came from my 19 year old daughter when we were meeting a new significant other (SO) of one of my sisters. The new SO is an affable guy and everyone really liked him. We had a busy day of talking and storytelling.
When I was alone with my daughter she said she was upset by something the SO said. She relayed this by lumping me and everyone else in with him saying “You guys say stuff all the time that is so offensive, stuff people my age would never say.” I asked her for an example and she said when SO was telling a story he said “I cried like a little girl.” This statement did not catch my attention when it was uttered however my irate daughter now had my full attention. She repeated “No one my age would ever talk like that, it’s so insulting. I used to be a little girl, how does he think that makes me feel?” Normally I would roll my eyes and tell her she was overreacting however this time, post #metoo, I thought about it. She was right, this is exactly the kind of insidious language that reinforces the idea that females are weak or worse, that showing vulnerability is a loathsome act.
In order to become more conscious as communicators we need to help each other become aware of these common, insidious phrases and change the narrative. Everything lives in language and starts with language, it is how we co-create reality. It’s important for us to speak up in the moment (instead of hours later to our mother).
How do you gently create awareness when conversation is fun and friendly and in addition you have a new member who is just getting to know the family?
How do you do it without seeming like a nudge?
Keep the delivery short and lighthearted. Possible comments:
- “I’m glad there are no little girls in earshot.”
- “At least you didn’t cry like a little boy….right?”
- “How about crying like a baby so you don’t offend little girls?”
Or whatever creative and humorous comment you can think of, remembering the objective is to just create awareness about what was said not to correct, lecture or change the person. A little bit here and a little bit there will help all of us start to become more conscious about our language. We owe it to our collective consciousness.