As I listened to the girls snipe at each other on the way home from school the other day, instead of allowing my blood pressure to rise, resisting the urge to insert my words into the cacophony of chaos and swirling anger, I detached. I listened. I traced the progression of hurt, fear, anger, misunderstanding. Later, as Lola set the table for dinner, a new argument erupted and I again noted the path from misinterpretation to rage and a thought began to crystallize. A question:
What if, at any point during the escalating war of words, one of my girls stopped to ask ‘why?’
- Why would she say/do something like that to me?
- Why does it bother me so much?
- Asking, “Why?” gives me the opportunity to step back from a biting remark uttered by one of my children and acknowledge that there might be a reason she is being snarky right now. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it does allow me to consider whether or not she has had a bad day and refrain from taking her remark as a personal slight.
- After this momentary breather, I am often able to ask “Why?” out loud which gives the other person a chance to examine their own behavior and either explain to me something I may have misunderstood or realize how it sounded. It also gives them the impression that I am willing to stay engaged in the interaction in a positive way, listening and truly trying to understand, and it often has the effect of turning the conversation around.