Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Personalties

Broaden Your Definitions And Expand Your Life

One of my greatest delights is to do the annual "BeBe Birthday Adventure" for each of my grandchildren. On this day, the birthday girl or boy gets to pick an activity or two, followed by the inevitable trip to Toys-R-Us.

Last weekend, it was Eli's turn. Eli's the youngest, having just turned 3.

We had already worn out the fun machines in Chucky Cheese when Eli put in his next request: "I want to go get i' c'eam cone!"

"OK, no problem," I said. And we were off to Baskin Robbins.

I picked Eli up so that he was eye level to the 31 plus flavors. "Whick one do you want?" I asked as we passed back and forth at the ice cream counter.

Finally, he pointed.

"Which one?" I asked. The two choices in the direction he was pointing were strawberry and vanilla. He pointed again.

"Strawberry?" I asked.

"I' c'eam," he answered.

Doing my best to interpret, I ordered the strawberry. "Cup or cone?" the clerk queried.

Eli piped up, "Big cup!" (Or so I thought.)

I paid and sat the "big cup" down in front of him.

"No! I' c'eam cone!" he protested.

Telling myself I must have misunderstood, I took the cup back to the counter. The clerk agreed to transfer the strawberry ic cream into a cone. Mission accomplished. I handed the birthday boy the ice cream cone.

His little lip began to quiver as he handed it back to me. Insistently, he exclaimed, "No! I want i' c'eam cone!"

I realize that somehow we were having a problem in both definition and communication. I was sincerely trying to understand and please, but it wasn't working.

I called his mother on the cell phone. "What kind of ice cream does Eli usually get?"

"He usually likes vanilla," she answered.

Just as I suspected. Back to the counter.

"May I please have another ice cream cone, this time vanilla?"

When I handed Eli the vanilla ice cream cone, his whole face lit up with a huge smile. He exclaimed, "I' c'eam cone!!"

As I resisted the temptation to snarf down the strawberry myself and, instead, dropped it into the trash, I thought, "What I just went through with Eli gets played out in our lives and relationships every day."

Failing To Communicate Expectations And Desires

Eli was limited in his ability to clearly communicate what he wanted to me. He was trying, and boy, was I trying to listen. But it just wasn't working.

You don't have to be three years old to struggle with expressing what you need and want. Maybe you worry too much how the other person will react. Perhaps you can communicate facts just fine, but lack good skills for expressing emotions. Maybe you're not specific enough in sharing what you want, expecting the other person to read your mind. Clearly communicating your desires and feelings is an essential relationship competency.

Narrow Perspective

Eli relied on his past experiences for his definition of an ice cream cone. Mind you, considering all the flavors, types of cones, and toppings, there were literally hundreds of "i' c'eam cone" options. Not only did he automatically reject the other choices, he became more and more frustrated because I didn't instantly understand the situation as he did. Made perfect sense to him. He looked at me like I must be quite slow.

Do you ever limit your growth and damage your communications by drawing on your own personal experiences to place narrow definitions on concepts, methods, and expectations? You know the REAL meanings. Your viewpoint is the CORRECT one. The method you prefer is the BEST one. You're sure of it. And you may even secretly believe that anyone who sees it differently is misguided at best and stupid at worst.

Heads up...there are so many things to learn! There are so many good ways to do it, some of them more efficient and effective than your preferred method. There are multiple interesting ways to view the same situation

Don't limit your growth by refusing to explore, to entertain new ideas, to get creative. Don't get stuck in "the way we've always done it."

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment."

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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