When speaking to moms at the Hearts at Home conference in Budapest, Hungary, last Saturday, Erika translated my English into Hungarian. If she wouldn’t have, the Hungarian moms would have been lost. Confused. Untaught. Angry.
I hope I would have seen their confused looks as signs they needed help. I hope their scowls would have caused me to ask someone, “What’s wrong?” Perhaps I would have asked someone if translation was necessary.
I hope I wouldn’t have judged half the crowd as being inattentive. Lazy. Disinterested. Unteachable. I hope I would have considered myself first. Was I doing something wrong? What changes could I make? How could I help them?
Are there times you’re not translated and you should be? How many times do we get discouraged and even angry, assuming a child or adult is inattentive, being stubborn, or unteachable, when the actual problem is our communication?
This week, let’s all listen to ourselves as our listeners might be. Are we clear? Will they understand? Do they have different intelligence strengths that might cause them to interpret our ideas differently than we had intended?
One mom I know was preparing her daughter to fly and explained her ears might pop. Her daughter thought that meant they’d pop off her head so she obviously wasn’t eager to get on the plane.
Have you ever told an impatient child “Hold your horses!”? I know of one girl, after hearing that, who went to her room, picked up her toy horses, and came back into the kitchen, smiling, with one under each arm.
A mom walked toward her son and calmly said, “Let me wash your face off.” He thought his face would come off! Can you imagine his response as his mom got closer?
In the Milwaukee, WI, area where I was raised, we called a drinking fountain a bubbler. I thought everyone did. So, one of the first days in my dorm at Purdue University, as a group of us discussed eating together, I suggested meeting at 6:00 p.m. at the bubbler. No one questioned me, but at 6:00, no one was there.
I eventually walked down and entered the cafeteria and noticed my floor mates sitting together. I questioned them, feeling rejected. One finally admitted none of them knew what a bubbler was, but they were afraid to admit it. I was surprised that they didn’t know that a bubbler was a drinking or water fountain!
I would hope, if they would have asked me, that I would have clarified what I meant without judging them. Thinking they were stupid. Thinking they didn’t care. Thinking they just weren’t listening.
What’s my attitude today when I find myself needing to clarify what I meant? When I have to interpret my own words for someone? What’s yours? What could it be?