What are we really saying?

I have spent a whole lot of time teaching (and hopefully role-modeling) how to name and make sense of feelings to my 10-year-old daughter. And it’s finally seeming like it might be coming to fruition. I was at an appointment this morning and came home to a very nasty note attached to a broken small item I had unsuccessfully tried to fix. It read along the lines of I completely stink at fixing things and why don’t I just learn my lesson already and can you just return this dumb item already?!

So, clearly she wasn’t actually that mad about the broken item. Something else was up and I asked about it. Long story short, she had trouble with a friend that morning in pod school. Eventually she said, “I’m sorry, I just needed to get my anger out.”

After I picked my mouth up off the floor, I agreed and thanked her for her honesty. That was kind of the end because I am trying to verbally process feelings less. It annoys pretty much everyone and rightfully so.

Then, later today, she opened a Valentine’s gift box that came in the mail from her grandma. Included were some flower seeds and seed starters. She laughed and said to me, “I think this is grandma’s way of saying we should plant flowers.” And, it’s true. My mom definitely thinks we don’t have nice landscaping. I just laughed and said, “I like that you’re starting to learn that some people say things they don’t mean and other times mean things they don’t say.”

And isn’t that the truth. While we master our first language in just a few years, do we really ever actually understand what the heck people are actually saying to us when they communicate? The battle to understand ourselves is a hard enough journey… why must we live in a world in which it is so difficult to understand what others are saying, as well? I’m not even talking about what others are feeling, I’m talking about understanding literally what they’re saying or asking. It’s exhausting. And every person is different, to boot.

The more I’m reflecting on these interactions, the more impressed I am. I mean, there are many adults who regularly fail to be able to see—much less admit—that they sometimes act angry about one thing simply because they’re actually feeling another strong emotion about another thing. Or, they want to ask for help but say, “I’m always alone to solve things!”

It hit me that I learned how to decode communication based on my family members’ styles. And have of course learned from many other people over the years of work and relationships. Yet, most people with whom we interact we don’t really “get.” So, it’s a constant obstacle course. But, as they say, admitting we have a problem is the first step.