It's great to be a work in progress.
Sarah here. We hope that you enjoyed last week’s blog on cross-generational communication. This week, we’re talking about another issue that can show up when we communicate with others: autopilot apologies.
What are autopilot apologies? They’re apologies that happen almost reflexively, without even thinking. People who struggle with autopilot apologies tend to apologize repeatedly during routine conversations, which may leave the listener feeling confused and wondering what the speaker is apologizing for. Consider this sample dialogue between coworkers:
Allie: “Hey, Mischa.”
Mischa: “Oh- I’m so glad you’re at this training too!”
Allie: “Do you need a partner for this exercise? Sorry to bug you.”
Mischa: “Um, yeah, I definitely need a partner. You aren’t bugging me. I don’t know many people here at the office yet, so I’m happy to see you.”
Allie: “Oh, okay. Sorry I’m so bad at reading situations. Ugh- I just dropped my pen. Sorry I’m such a klutz.”
Mischa: “Should we sit over there?”
Allie: “Yeah, that sounds good. I don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing though. Sorry if I’m not much help.”
Mischa: “Well, how about we just wait to hear what the facilitator says, and we’ll go from there.”
In that brief exchange, Allie said a whopping 4 apologies but it’s likely that Mischa didn’t think any apologies were necessary. After all, she seemed relieved that Allie approached her and that they could partner up, so Allie wasn’t bugging her. And since they were awaiting instructions from the facilitator, it wasn’t surprising that Allie didn’t know what to do.
In the previous sample exchange, Allie seemed to doubt herself and lack confidence. But there are many reasons people may fall into the autopilot apologies trap. Reasons for autopilot apologies include:
Regardless of the reason for the autopilot apologies, the good news is that you can do things to break out of this habit! Slow down. Breathe and take a moment before you speak. Ask yourself what you’re apologizing for. If you’re genuinely remorseful for something and it warrants an apology, then apologize. If, on the other hand, you didn’t do anything wrong and you don’t have a reason to apologize, then don’t. Remember, apologies are for times you have actually said or done something wrong, not just for times you feel uncertain or uncomfortable in a situation. Being mindful and present during conversations can help you be more aware of what and how you’re communicating. By being intentional in your communication, you can decrease autopilot apologies and make sure you’re actually saying what you mean.
Why Won’t You Listen to Me?
Lisa here. I hope you read last week’s blog and have been working on curbing conversational one-upmanship. This week I’m talking about a situation that commonly leads to miscommunication- people from different generations working together or trying to resolve a difference of opinion. We’ve all seen the memes and heard the jokes. You may have even found yourself saying something like, “Well, when I was your age…” to someone younger than you, or something like, “Ok, Boomer” to someone older than you.
This issue came up in two different TV shows that I watched. On both shows, a conflict developed between a slightly older, more experienced individual and a younger, but innovative individual. Both brought something to the table, but neither was able to see the value in the other person’s input. Several misunderstandings and outright arguments occurred, which negatively affected the jobs they were doing. What stood out to me the most in both of these episodes was that the individuals involved were relatively close in age (10 years or fewer).
If it’s that hard for people who are maybe 10 years apart in age to communicate and value each other’s input, how much harder is it for parents and their children where the age gap is even greater? In our work, Sarah and I often talk with parents and children about difficulties relating to each other. A frequent source of frustration for both sides is feeling like the other does not value their input or opinions.
Unfortunately, it seems that the relationship between younger and older generations is more contentious than in the past. Younger people in our culture are less predisposed to listen to older people. That’s going to affect how your kids take input from you, particularly as they get older.
Yes, you have a lot of wisdom to share. Your kids will benefit from your knowledge about life and about how the world works. However, how you present your wisdom is key. As a parent, you may unintentionally reinforce your child’s feeling that you do not value what they bring to the table.
Here’s the good news: there is a way to let your kids know that you know things and have life experiences that they could learn from without lecturing or saying, “I told you so.”
Overall, leading by example will help reduce the friction between you and your kids. If you are willing to listen to them, they will be more likely to listen to you. Also, if you are able to approach conversations with your kids without feeling like you have something to prove or that you have a make a point, you will create an environment of mutual respect between you and your kids.
It's Not a Competition!
Sarah here. We hope that you enjoyed last week’s blog on miscommunications. This week, we’re talking about another communication woe that can create a lot of conflict: conversational one-upmanship.
Imagine you’re having a typical dinner with a friend, co-worker or significant other. How does the conversation likely go? If you’re like most people, you’ll probably ask the other person how their day went, they’ll ask you how your day went, and maybe you’ll both share stories about your day. Sounds innocent enough, right?
Depending on the energy and context of that conversation, this innocent “how was your day” chat can quickly become an exhausting exchange of war stories about daily hassles, workplace drama and petty office politics. It can start to feel like a competition to see who wins the “I had the crappiest day at work” award. Somehow, when we’re trying to share, sympathize and relate to the other person, we overdo it and end up in social comparison mode.
This doesn’t just happen with our co-workers, friends, and partners. Imagine that your child or teen mentions that they feel stressed, overwhelmed, or exhausted from their long day at school. Or maybe your teen or young adult child brings up feeling tired from work. You may not mean to, but you (like many people) may go into the same social comparison mode with your kids in this situation. Maybe you point out that they can’t imagine what tired really feels like because they don’t have a “real job.” Maybe you laughingly ask them what they have to be stressed about.
We don’t think most parents are competing with their kids on purpose. But, by drawing these kinds of social comparisons, parents are inadvertently dismissing their kids’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences. When this situation shows up repeatedly, kids may be less likely to open up and talk with their parents in the future.
How can you avoid conversational one-upmanship with your family? Remember that no matter how old your child is, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are valid. They are allowed to feel tired or stressed or overwhelmed, just like you are now. It may be hard to remember, but if you’re honest with yourself, you likely felt some of those same things when you were their age.
Remember that conversations are about communicating- not competing. Focus on listening. Reflect back what your child says to make sure you understood them and to let them know you’re paying attention. Provide empathy and encouragement with your verbal and nonverbal cues. And, if your child is looking for support or solutions, be there to help them problem solve. Using these strategies will likely help you sidestep conversational one-upmanship and—as an added bonus—you’ll likely have a more enjoyable and engaging conversation with your kids!
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.
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