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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Worst Ways to Start a Conversation

I have certain things I do every morning I wake up before I start my day. One of those is checking Facebook memories. They help me check if my memories of things are accurate and remind me of the best of times we all should focus on more rather than the worst of times. (Thank you, Charles Dickens.) This morning, I was met with this memory:

"When your child comes in saying, 'Not saying this happened, but what if...' you immediately know the following words describe precisely what just happened."

I laughed because I remember distinctly which child said it and why. It's a good memory.

Not on Facebook because this incident predates it, but I have a vivid winter memory of being home alone one winter day when I received a phone call from my four year old son's father who started the call with, "Now, don't panic. He's fine." Of course, panic immediately set in.

Here is one a friend of mine got recently from the boyfriend of her daughter when her daughter wasn't feeling well. "First off, I just want to say, she is ok." My friend naturally froze and braced for really bad news.

What are we doing when we start off conversations with these types of sentences? "Hey, I have something to tell you, but I want to make sure I control your reaction before I tell you what it is." These opening sentences are a form of emotional control. What do we do when we perceive someone is trying to control us? We automatically take a stance against that attempt at control.

I'm guilty of this too. I have an extensive history of saying, "Now, don't panic..." Every person I have said that to immediately had a feeling of dread grow within them. My bad.

My mother's favorite line to start a topic: "You know what you should do?" I fight so hard to not repeat that phrase to my own kids, but I do. It's a bad habit of control that passes down from generation to generation because the intention of being helpful and loving and teaching and guiding is good. The outcome is bad.

I was watching a TikToc video late last night with this psychologist talking about how parents inevitably screw up and that we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it. He is absolutely right. Us parents screw up left and right creating toxic environments where love is the intention. How do we fix that? Well, I don't know that we can completely.

Us parents, even of adult kids, think we can save them from their own mistakes. We can't. We think we have the wisdom of time and experience. Except we don't. It's a different world we didn't live in. I for one had no fear of someone coming to class with a gun to shoot as many people as possible. They did and are. I didn't grow up in a world where all our lives were on the internet for all to see. They did and are. I didn't have my face in a screen almost 24/7 trying to balance the good and the bad of all that technology. They are there all day every day.

The intentions may be good and honorable, but if the perceptions of the other person are bad, then the words and actions need to change. It is so hard!

I got to spend time with my grandchildren and daughter-in-law yesterday at a farmer's market. We sat in the grass. The kids ate raspberries and ran around collecting things they found on the ground. We ended up building a thing. I don't know what to call it. It was a sort of heart-shaped rock foundation with broken real and fake flowers piled on it. Hard and soft. Dull and colorful. It was some odd physical tribute to opposing substances. It was lovely and weird simultaneously. It should have made it into a sculpture to honor of baffling situations. A flower cannot grow from a rock with no soil and no water. Imagine the disappointment if we had expected those flowers to thrive on that rock just because it was in the shape of a heart.

Intentions and perceptions are often in opposition to each other much like the rock and flowers. What one intends and another perceives will often not make sense. Loving perceptions do not come from controlling intentions. How do we bridge that gap? One way is by thinking carefully before we utter that sentence hanging there on the tips of our tongues.

Is there a word, phrase, or question that you have a tendency to say when your intentions are good but the perception is of control? I know I have more than just the one I put on here.

If you have a comment or question, or a blog idea, shoot me an email at

Thanks for reading!



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