I sometimes introduce myself as someone who speaks several languages, all of them English. That is, I speak, “woman” and “man” and “teenager” and “kid” as well as the popular variants, “husband,” “wife,” and “parent.” I also understand “bachelor” and “grandmother.” The point here is that although we may all speak the same language and use the same words, our gender, age, and the roles we play can greatly influence what those words really mean and how the words get arranged and how they come out of our mouths in discussions, lectures, arguments, and good-natured teasing. Oftentimes what people need to resolve their conflict isn’t any kind of complicated therapy, but rather, just a ‘translator.’ That is, someone who can hear what they’re saying, and take into consideration the influencing factors, then translate the message for the recipient who doesn’t understand the message as it was originally presented. Here is an example:
Dad of Teen: Hey Todd, you wanna shoot some hoops?
Todd (age 15): I don’t care.
Dad: Well, if you want to, we can.
Todd: Yeah, whatever.
Dad: Did you want to go or what?!
Todd: I said I don’t care!
Each storm off, angry
The translation of above could be as follows:
Dad: I haven’t spent much time with you lately and I feel like a jerk. I can tell you’re mad and I want to make it up to you by shooting some hoops with you.
Todd: You’re right, you have neglected me and I am mad, but I would be willing to accept a game of hoops as an apology, but you gotta push me to it because I’m far to cool to admit I want to play hoops with my dad at my advanced age of 15.
Dad: I’m a little hurt that you didn’t jump at the chance to play hoops with me, but I’m a grown man and I can take it if you want to say no.
Todd: I said I would, you’re not listening.
Dad: I am really starting to feel rejected and vulnerable and that’s not comfortable to me as a man.
Todd: I said I would go if you would just go get the ball we could play and it will be cool but you’re starting to be a selfish jerk again.
Dad: I am really feeling embarrassed and stupid now and I’m totally frustrated so I’m just gonna give up and call it your fault.
Todd: Yep, there you go, being a jerk again, as always. You don’t really love me.
If you would like help ‘translating’ the arguments that go down in your household, give me a call!