Transcript: Ep 114: Read Me Right: Understanding Each Other Better
Welcome to the Us And Kids Podcast. We are glad you are here. I am Jan Talen, a wife, a mom, a grandma, and a marriage and family therapist.
I wanted to let you know that the Us And Kids Communication Program is open again! It is an effective and efficient communication program. Build your skills for connecting you with your spouse and your kiddos - at the same time. It's eight modules long. And has lots of professional support that leads you through great personal and relationship skills that will help to tone down the tensions and build up the connections. It's fun and it's practical. Check it out on the website today.
Welcome to the Us and Kids podcast. I am your host. Jan Talen. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, a wife, a mom, and a grandma. And this Us and Kids podcast is about how to help you stay married forever while you parent your kiddos together. We know this isn't easy putting the two together - a healthy marriage and a healthy family. So I encourage you to subscribe to Us and Kids in your favorite podcasting app. I'm glad you're here so that your marriage and your home are fulfilling. And so very, very good.
It's National Reading Day. Did you know that we often also hear it as Dr. Seuss day. There has been this national reading day to remind us to pay attention to how important it is to read, you use that part of our brain and that part of our space to learn things and to understand things through what is written. This day and recognition has been around for about 22 years.
And I believe that it is important to recognize and take a minute to remember that reading is an important skill. In the classroom, even if it's in preschool or nursery school or even in our everyday life around our house, we know that reading is important. We read books to our little ones. Sometimes we even read books to our little ones before we've held them in our arms.
We've asked our little ones to read books to us to, tell us the name of that animal or what that cow says or how loud the kitty can Meow or the lion can roar. Sometimes moms read books in different volumes and intensities and ways than dads do. And sometimes when we have read a book to a kiddo, 42 million times, we have found that there are many different ways to read the book, many different ways to put those words together and to edit the book to our liking or to our times.
Then eventually one of our kids calls us out on it and tells us that's not what the book says. And then sometimes we really have to read the true, actual written words because our kiddos are learning how to read and they are following along and we want them to be sure to read the words accurately. So then we do have to make sure we are reading each word. And making a good example of our reading, (truth be told,.. often I like my version of the book better, but for the sake of my kiddos, reading each word correctly), I had to sort of discipline myself to go back to the author's original language.
That's all nice and good. But what in the world is reading have to do with building a marriage that lasts forever while we parent our kiddos together??
We're going to stretch this definition of National Reading Day just a bit more because, as I thought about it, we read a whole lot more than just words. We read body language, cries, laughter, eyes, size, body stances, tones of voice.
There's a short story about once when I was walking around my kitchen and I had gone to the cupboard to get some chocolate chips. One of my kiddos had asked me for permission to do something. I don't know what it was. I apparently was contemplating how to answer this question or request.
We often worked in our parenting world to find a way to say yes to at least part of a kiddos request. And that's probably what I was doing. I was also probably processing how I could fit this request into dinner time, soccer practice, somebody else’s bedtime and that sort of stuff.
The kiddo who had asked the request was pestering and asking and asking and asking. Another kiddo apparently had paid close attention to what I did when requests were made. And they told kiddo number one,
“If you quit asking her, she's going to say, yes, don't you see, she's walking around the kitchen, eating chocolate chips. And if you leave her alone, she's going to say yes.”
I had no idea any of my kids were paying that close attention to my behavior or how chocolate chips fit into my decision-making process. But that kiddo had figured out how to read me. And frankly, that kiddo was right. I was looking for a way to say yes, and I did find a way to say that.
Of course, I was in a bit of a pinch because of that kiddo's wise observation. And maybe I was a bit befuddled for awhile because I did notice that when I needed to think I did go find chocolate chips. The flavor was enough distraction and enjoyment for me to come down and find a little edge that maybe I could move towards a bit of yes. Or a way to gently say no and find a plausible alternative.
I had to learn how to read myself a bit more and read how my emotions and my thoughts played into my actions, but also to know how to read how my actions of eating chocolate chips played into my thoughts.
There's another thing about reading that is also in the true world of relationships. This doesn't matter if it happens with your spouse or with your kiddos at any age. And that is that one of us will read a word with different emphasis or different accent than another. And then we can argue about who said the word correctly, such as, is it potato or Patato? Is it process or process?
And the one that my family likes to pick on me about is that I say, “ Hamburg”, instead of hamburger, And I say “brekfast” instead of breakfast, but I can't even tell the difference. They say there's a difference in how I say breakfast. And as long as we all keep a good sense of humor about it, the small differences in pronunciation only draw us closer together and don't push us apart.
And the same is true as we work to read someone's emotions or emphasis. My husband long ago used to say that he had a bone to pick with me. Those words frightened me. I didn't tell him that I could just feel the fight inside of me that somehow I had disappointed him or had done something he had disapproved of. It was important to me (probably still is) that he approves or likes what I do. I do, now, feel more secure in his unconditional love for me. And some of that transition, as I once said to him, is that a bone to pick with me means to me that he really doesn't like what I'm doing, and it could be a deal breaker or a big deal for our marriage.
He looked at me funny. He said, “A bone to pick with you is that I have a little something that's bothering me a little bit.”
I said, “Ah, no way you mean that you are mad at me.”
He said, “No, it means you do something different than I do. And I don't understand why you do it that way.”
I don't really remember what we were talking about in terms of what bone we were picking. And as I came to understand that he wasn't being hyper or deeply critical, he wasn't saying he would love me more if I did it this way or his way. He was just saying he didn't understand why I did it the way I did it. And as I told him why I did it the way I did it, he accepted it. Like when he accepts my use of the word Hamburg versus hamburger, no judgment.
Just keep smiling as you learn to read those you live with accurately. It takes time. It takes feedback. Like bone to pick between husband and myself and it takes practice.
It begins with learning to read the person you fell in love with as you were dating, in learning to read those we love, it includes having the emotional and relationship safety to be vulnerable so that we can ask questions for greater understanding.
It means to be able to give benefit of the doubt when someone's actions or attitudes really don't match up with what we expect. We give the benefit of the doubt that they are not trying to be mean or ugly to us, but rather that there's something else going on that we don't know about.
Then the vulnerability part comes in and we're able to ask for an explanation. That might sound something like this.
“I see that you're eating chocolate chips often. That means that you're worried about something. So are you worried about something?” Gently said.
Can I help at all with this conversation? It doesn't assume blame or shame. It's simply looking for information and connecting. We can ask this of the person we fell in love with, or we can also have this conversation with one of our kiddos when they're being crabby, withdrawn and resistant.
It's this curiosity in the conversation that builds the safety for the conversation to continue with vulnerability and with truth. In our studies about words and emotions. We know that how words are used and how they are delivered impacts the emotional experience of the person we're talking with regardless of their age.
So asking, “Why did you do that??!” in a snarky way means we'll get a different verbal and emotional response than if we ask, “Why did you do that?” in a very gentle.
And so if you want the conversation to be read in a dark, anxious or angry way, then use that snarky voice. And if you want the conversation to be read in an intriguing, let's talk about this and stay together, even though there's tension, than talk and use your curious eyes and tone and touch.
Take the time to pre-think how you want to be read or heard, and then you'll use your energy to read those relationships around you with grace. Reading your relationships with grace means that the feedback you give each other - from giving feedback to your three-year-old, who's talking back to you and resisting to your seven-year-old who's just doing what they want, to your spouse, who's too tired to really absorb what you need or what you are asking -for graciousness, is giving them feedback that they can hear given the space that they are in. It's feedback or conversation that doesn't frighten them so much that their weary brain can not work.
We know that when our brains and emotions become frightened or overwhelmed, that our ability to problem solve and cooperate and compromise becomes limited. And so when you can see and read that someone is not engaging in a productive manner, instead of becoming more frightening with your voice or your look or your face, become more gentle. Your softness will show, and then they will know that they're safe. And in that safety they can read from you. They too will be able to calm down and you will be able to hear how they want this part of the day's story to go.
As you can tell, just like reading, this takes a lot of practice. Just like reading means you're continually learning new words, new ways of mixing words, how the word sounds, depending on how you pronounce them and what tone of voice to add to them. Relationships take a lot of practice, too. It is wise to keep on practicing. Just like we keep on practicing, breathing.
Reading a poem is different from reading a textbook, which is different from reading a love note, which might be different than reading a children's book. Which is also probably different than reading an academic paper or the newsfeed. Each one of the people in your household are different. Just like all of those different ways of reading things are different.
Keep on learning how to read each person in your life. They will change. And that will mean that your skills in reading them will need to change a bit. You will change as well. And as you do those around, you will adjust and read you differently, too. We improve our reading skills by learning how to enunciate or pronounce words accurately so that those that are hearing us understand us the first time.
This is also true in communicating with those we love.
Keep using words and actions and emotions that will help others understand you and trust you the first time.
Keep helping your relationship vocabulary grow.
Give grace to others.
As you learn to understand them more and help them understand you by explaining yourself.
Leave out the words like:
It doesn't matter.
I don't want to talk about it.
These words are usually not helpful. They might be communicating, “I'm scared. I'm worried. I don't feel safe.
Give yourself some room to settle down and then find words to explain yourself without shame because the other person is going to listen with empathy and with grace.
Give people room to explain themselves.
You know, reading is one of the most complex tasks that our brain has to learn how to do and reading our relationships and how we hear others is very, very complex as well. Let's not be discouraged. It just takes practice and determination.
In the Us and Kids Communication Program we can help you build those skills so that you can read each other better. Even if it's your little one, or if it's your spouse, or if it's your mother. We can also help you so that you are more readable so that people aren't guessing and miss-guessing and misinterpreting you. When people are confused by what you say or what you do, they often then misunderstand us.
If you can communicate clearly you will build trust and connections with those that you.
The Us and Kids Communication Program is open for you to join us anytime! Jump on the Us and Kids website, and just find the place where it says join. If you want to watch the free workshop first, go ahead and do that.
Remember as well, if this isn't the right time for you to join the program, to grab this printable, stay in touch with us through the podcasts so that you can continue to build up your own skills.
You know, there are a world of books out there with every topic under the sun, and there's a world of relationships out there with so much joy and so much variety.
I just want to encourage you to, to keep listening, keep learning and keep loving all of those wonderful, readable people in your life.
Cheering for you hoping to meet you soon in the us and kids program. Bye-bye.