Tag Archives: communication

The Power of a Whisper

I get along with most people. Most people get along with me. But every once in a while I’ll run across someone evil. Cruella d’Vil kind of evil, soap opera villain evil. You know the type. Smart, driven, and friendly on the outside, but on the inside, a mean spirited, back stabbing, manipulative, soul sucking witch, with a capital B.Cruella

Usually, I see them coming and head the other way. But recently, I walked smack dab into a couple of bad ones. One female, the other male. Their gender helped to determine their motive and aggressive styles, but the effects of their nastiness were very similar.

I have to believe that Cruella, was manipulating the male, because he was not smart enough to do much more than yell and scream (literally) and act like a schoolyard bully. It was a unpleasant situation and frankly a waste of my time, money and effort. I’m glad to be free of it.

But that isn’t the point of this article, just the impetus for it.

Back in the early 90’s, I had the pleasure of being asked to teach art at a local elementary school.  It was a new school in our growing community and they needed a part time art teacher. I had been teaching for a while at my gallery. But, never in public school and never six hundred students-twenty five at a time.

I learned a lot my first year from the principal and other teachers. I learned more from my students. The most important thing they taught me was: they will listen if you whisper.Godfather

Being an art class, the students claimed a certain sense of freedom from the regular classroom rules. That and the fact they could smell a new teacher a mile down the hall, evoked a collective, “let’s see how much we can get away with…”

It was only a few days into the school year when I admitted to myself, I had no control over them. I didn’t know what to do when my class refused to settle down. Boys were shouting and sword fighting with paint brushes, girls were squealing and painting their faces to look like makeup. It was chaos.

I tried ringing a bell, holding up my hand, putting my fingers to my lips, writing names on the board and even yelling a little myself. None of those techniques met with success.

But as soon as I walked over to a student in the middle of the class and started to speak in a low voice about a painting I was working on with a warrior queen and evil shape shifters, the class got quiet.  Row by row, student by student, they started to listen. As I gained their attention, I started asking questions: “What color do you think the eyes should be? How would you transform the shapes? Should the queen have magical powers? What else would you add?”

As long as I whispered, they spoke in a low voice too, in turn, and in awe. They were excited to have input on such a cool idea. Each week they would ask about the painting and offer suggestions. They wanted to create their own “story art” and did so in a focused, calm manner. They seemed to connect the whisper with the painting. Did they still get a little crazy sometimes?  Sure, but all I had to do was make them want to listen by whispering about an interesting idea.  I love working with children. They are so open, so eager to learn and offer up their ideas in an open and ungarnished way.

Adults, not always the case. I forgot the power of a whisper in my recent experience. Although, I’m not sure any amount of whispering would have worked. Some of us, at a certain point in our lives, close ourselves off to listening, exploring and learning, and resort to nasty behavior. Next time I get in a toxic situation, I will speak in a low voice, share ideas, listen, and observe. Perhaps I can get others to build up, not tear down and offer solutions, instead of creating problems. If not, I will pick up my marbles and go home; another lesson I learned from children.

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Through a Rolling Donut Hole

My son and I love and respect one another.

We had a good conversation yesterday.  We talked, listened and ignored each other.  I was trying to give him advice and he was trying not to take it.  I was hoping to broaden his understanding of the workings of this world and he was letting me know that he already knew and what he didn’t know, he wanted to find out on his own. We are so much alike.

My son, Jackson is a good looking, highly intelligent, articulate and talented young man, confident in his abilities and determined to live life, his way.  We are so much alike, so much alike now.

His nineteen, is miles ahead of mine.  At nineteen, I was a smart mouth, college sophomore, unsure of myself and my abilities, easily manipulated and lead astray by anyone who said, “let’s party”.  I was irrational, hot tempered and slightly histrionic.  I had little understanding of the world, didn’t know where I was going and didn’t give a flying f#!*k what people thought.  A lovely young woman.

If I’d known then what I know now.  Right?  I understand why I didn’t have a clue.  But why is his view of the world so much keener than mine, at the time?  The Internet? Reddit? Facebook?  Video games, explicit movies? Blatant TV ?

Image

Yeah, I think so.  I grew up with Donna Reed, Father Knows Best and The Brady Bunch. Happy families with little depth, trivial conflicts and a pristine facade.  Sure, they made you feel, warm and fuzzy, but they presented such a false pretense of reality. The conflict was always resolved. There was always a happy ending.

Life just wasn’t like that and it caused problems.  First, those programs set high standards, too high.  Donna Reed  was beautiful, happily married to a doctor with a pretty, “do no wrong” daughter and a lovable, son.  She wore a dress and heels everyday, cooked big family meals and had a spotless house.  That’s a hard act to follow.  Most real families paled in comparison. Second, a kid grew up not knowing how bogus that was until they got far enough away from the nest to find out on their own.  Finding out was difficult.  You got advice from elders, which you didn’t want or employed the trial and error method and learned the hard way.  Although, there is something to be said for learning the hard way, it often produced devastating consequences.

Frankly, I’m a little jealous.  I’m not saying that it’s easier for my son.  The Information Age creates it’s own set of pitfalls and problems, but it does arm you with reality, the good, the bad and the ugliness of it all.  My husband and I started him off in the right direction.  Knowing what’s out there before he goes, gives him a better chance of making good decisions.

I hope my son and I will continue to talk, listen and ignore each other with love and respect.