Are You Toned?

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”
― Lemony Snicket

Can we just say, communication is HARD!   The other day Quinn and I met with someone in our personal life.  We had a conversation, the three of us.  An hour later Quinn and I were talking about a decision to be made based on that conversation.  Quinn and I are aware of the challenges of careful communication and have done a lot of work, so we quadruple check and clarify. 

At some point we realized that Quinn had heard “adhasdh” and I had heard “asdgaseuy”.  We didn’t debate or argue about who heard “right”. (Which is miracle based on a lot of work and experience!)  We just texted the other person and tried to clearly state that we were not clear! “When you said “abhyvcsdgs”  did you mean X or Y?  It didn’t even matter who understood/heard right, we had the info needed to make the decision.

Speaking with care is no simple task.

“It’s easy to be clear with a teen.” said no parent ever.  Parenting teens is hard, in part, because communicating with teens?  Oh my. We parents want to do the right thing, to say the right thing, but, we often end up saying “adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”  A child will often look at us with pity, hug us, roll their eyes because we’re saying that again. And then almost always ask if they can leave now. What was communicated successfully?  Anyone’s guess!  Most parents do not feel great after these conversations, they just are left wondering whether their kid heard anything that they said. And often they will ask us what we think…and we weren’t there!

Another parent of teen fave is “WTFavsdwtfrgswtfdrgwtfwtfwtfwtfWTFWTFWTF?!”  And you know what our kids hear?  They are teenagers, they are not stupid. We may not be speaking clearly or carefully, but they do hear us, and they do hear WTF loud and clear. They may play their music so loud that you are worried about their hearing, but they are not tone deaf. And they move away.

In our deep caring, parents often become careless with our intentions and our tone. A question that parents sometimes wonder aloud to us, and sometime ask their children is “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!”  Sometimes they change their tone “So, can you tell me what you were thinking?”

Can you hear the difference?   And you’re reading it-you can’t actually hear anything! What if I told you that the second was delivered with a head shaking slowly left and right. Does it sound different with that head tone?  Could it be asked with genuine curiosity? Think about it.   Tone and delivery are huge- no matter the relationship!

“I didn’t know every day I would be discussing the tone of my voice with my wife. I thought it was a marriage. Apparently, it’s a musical.” 

Jerry Seinfeld

As with any relationship, a marriage, a new baby, a pre-teen, in-laws and on and on…we enter into these with expectations. Teenagers?  Expectations?  Danger zone if you’re counting on them to communicate with care, or even care to communicate!

The pre-teen, teen and young adult years are a great opportunity for us parents to learn how to communicate more clearly.  Never have we worked with a parent who we question in any way shape or form whether they care about their child.  They may be tired, they may be frustrated, but they absolutely care. 

Using more CARE, not less care, in interacting with other humans can be hard under the best of circumstances – and communicating with a pre-teen, teenager or young adult…….

How can you learn how best to express yourself with the care that this relationship deserves? 

Try using CARE





Simply remembering to speak calmly changes the tone of any conversation.  Try it out sometime! Just enter a conversation, with whomever, saying to yourself ahead of time, with intention, “I’m going to stay calm”.  You may find yourself speaking more softly or slowly. See how long you can do it.  Treat it like a brain game.  Because, ha, it is!!  The young person’s brain is myelinating and growing. There is no end of evidence that us parents can benefit from brain games too.

Repeating everything may sound extreme.  Again, think of it as a brain game.  I’m not inviting you to repeat everything that someone says always, just the gist. “Okay, cool, so you’d like…..”  By repeating you are confirming that you heard them, and you are also confirming that you heard them correctly.

People like to be heard.  We all do in truth.  After letting them know that you are actually listening, you can calmly state your hope/plan/whatever.  They may respond with “avdlfiKTV,URGGTHEfsdgskgfsfgigfvsojoishby”.  And then you can calmly ask them to maybe restate that because you didn’t get their gist.

Our job as humans is to modulate ourselves. Duets are hard. Others of all ages may go off key, but if harmony is our goal, then we can best contribute by taking care of ourselves and our part. Other people in the duet, or the choir, may not sound harmonious.  (Bear in mind, preaching doesn’t usually change their tune, eh? )

And if things sound good?  Your patience paid off.  No need to consider preaching, Just join in!