Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peas and Anger

I'm going to write about food, but this is not really about food, so bear with me.

If we're at a formal dinner with people we barely know, we wouldn't mention if we didn't like the food.

If we're at a more casual dinner with acquaintances, we still probably wouldn't mention it, but if the hostess noticed we weren't eating the pork, we'd tell her why.

If we're at dinner with good friends, we might gently mention that it was a little heavy on the salt.  We'd talk about favorite cookbooks and recipes, and how we feel so much better with a daily smoothie.  One of us would discover that the other really dislikes tomatoes, and she'd file that information away in her mind and try to never serve tomatoes to that friend again, out of love.

If we're at a dinner with very close friends or family, we'd already know who doesn't eat spinach and who absolutely loves green beans.  My mom is very good at this.  When my parents and my sister and her husband and six kids and me and my husband and four kids all get together, my mom is the one who can come up with a meal plan.  She takes into account the kid who doesn't like mayo, the one who won't eat tomatoes and the one who hardly eats anything at all.  She reads ingredient labels for the ones with sensitivities.  She thinks up meals where everyone can pick and choose their own ingredients or she comes up with an alternative for the odd person out.  She remembers so many family member's preferences, it blows me away. 

Why can't we do the same with emotions, love languages, and the way we speak to one another?

I've learned a lot of healthier communication skills in the last few years, but I hardly ever get a chance to practice them.  Most of the people in my life don't say anything if I have offended them.  If I know I was out of line, I'll take the initiative to go apologize, but if I don't know, I don't know.

It's like serving someone you love the same food over and over that they don't like, but they never tell you they don't like it.  You'd much rather them just tell you, then find them slipping it under the table to the dog.

Sometimes I try to tell the people in my life that I don't like what they are serving.  Sometimes I've reverted back to childhood habits of throwing it on the floor and spitting it out and stomping away from the table.  But then I apologize and go back and try again.  For some people, discussing food (emotions) is off the table.

It's much easier for my kids.  If they hurt each other, they are much quicker with an apology.  They learn from what they did.  Their relationship is closer after one has blundered and apologized and been forgiven.  They know each other better.  They can say, "I'm sad," or "I'm hurt," or "I'm angry."  I've worked really hard to make our home a safe place to say those things.

They get my best efforts in communication.  With my children, I've learned how to say "I'm sorry," without qualifiers or excuses.  I've learned how to say "I felt sad when you did that," without laying on a guilt trip.  I mess those up to sometimes, but I'm getting better. 

But with others in my life, it's more difficult, because they don't speak the language, and I'm still learning with a long way to go.

I imagine a world or at least a close circle where we could say "When you did that, I felt angry, because I need to be respected," as easily as we say, "I wasn't fond of the soup, because I don't like peas."


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