Use your words (the adult version)
If a magic ticker tallied up all the times we utter common phrases in our house, the count on "use your words" would read 1,689,294, approximately. Toddler dialect sounds, at best, like "mah Cherrios leh doll leh fwigerator, mommy." Um, what was that, sweetheart?
My toddlers know how to speak English properly enough to express the most basic of notions, but their vocabulary turns to mush when they become in any way frustrated. Screaming and wailing ensues.
"Use your words" is our fix phrase - and it's pretty effective. These simple words help us foster the value of clear and honest self-expression in our children.
Do you practice clear and honest self-expression?
Bet you didn't think this was going to be about you, did ya? Get ready to look in the mirror, buddy.
When my husband and I first started dating - we were mere babies - we fell fast and hard, neither of us mature enough to properly handle the adultness of our new relationship. Often we would find ourselves in a minor disagreement, but instead of expressing our emotions (like adults), we'd allow our ridiculous insecurities to go to battle until our emotions boiled over... angry arguing would ensue. Assuming I had enough self-control to not drive away, we would end up talking late, late into the night until our voices whittled down to raspy whispers. We'd pour our hearts out to each other, work through our disagreements, and expose our deepest secrets. We'd talk until we felt better.
Only years later did it occur to me that these arguments were lessons in Using Our Words, 101.
But this isn't about our sappy love story. Let's get back to you.
This is for my coworkers - past, present and future - who are struggling through office politic problems.
This is for my friends and family who just don't know what to say.
Stress weakens our immunity, reduces our ability to concentrate, and dings our self-esteem. We're all aware of how we feel on the inside... the hot blood that rushes to your head when you're angry, the tightness in your spine when you're anxious or the slump in your upper back when you're sad. We feel the hurt.
Today, I share with you the fix: USE. YOUR. WORDS.
It really is that simple.
Ironically, the idea of talking it out only causes more stress.
No more! Today is the day we take the first step toward living stress-free. Come along friends, the doctor* is in.
*I am no doctor, nor licensed psychologist. Simply someone who likes giving unsolicited advice.
HOW TO "USE YOUR WORDS," IN THREE EASY STEPS:
STEP ONE: Set the mood.
If you can avoid it, for the love of God, don't start a conversation while your partner's in the midst of a Madden game. Don't even start one right after the fourth quarter ends, he needs a minute to savor the victory or mourn the defeat. Follow your coworker to the water cooler, if you have to, but don't corner her right before a big meeting.
Wait, or create, a time when there's not a lot happening, because it's a lot easier to start a tricky conversation when your friend can (willingly) give you their undivided attention.
STEP TWO: Own it.
Nothing puts people on the defensive like laying on the blame, regardless of whether they deserve it. Starting sentences with the word you does exactly that.
Think about these sentences.
You made me angry.
You're an asshole.
Do you feel that? That's not how you want your listener to feel if you're interested in making emotional progress.
Starting with "I," on the other hand, produces a different effect.
I feel sad.
I feel angry.
I feel a bit confused.
Don't these phrases make you want to help? To find out more?
That's it. Simply structured sentences, five words or less.
STEP THREE: Be honest.
This is the hard part, TBH. Truths can be painful, embarrassing, or odd... and for some reason your whole body screams DON'T SAY IT.
Alas, you must. You owe it to yourself to spill it. The good news is, sharing your burden both feels great and does wonders for your relationships. Plus, you'll feel physically better without those stress-inducing hormones pulsing through your veins.
Letting out your secrets and expressing your feelings releases the poison for which you've allowed safe harbor. Shoulder burden, lifted. Ails, cured.
The method is simple. "Use your words" should be easy enough to remember (especially if you have a toddler or two), but if this doesn't work for you, then try something else. And by all means, share what did work. We're all in this together, aren't we?