Communication is like milk: it does a body good. But when milk sits in the refrigerator for too long it starts to spoil, get sour and stink. It loses all of its nutritional value and will make anyone who drinks it past its expiration date sick enough to hurl.
The same is true with communication. When it goes unused and pain, confusion, even joy are left sitting on the shelf of your internal fridge, your relationships start to sour.
Small oversights by your children morph into intentional offenses, and every word your spouse utters is interpreted as a personal attack all because you've been too afraid to open the refrigerator.
Here are three quick and easy fixes to the dreaded curdled milk syndrome which will spare you and everyone around you a lot of, well, tummy aches.
Here are some other ways to avoid communication disasters.
1. Ask. When you're walking in the house after a 13-hour day at the office carrying 42 bags of groceries and your kids playing Xbox barely notice your entrance, instead of mumbling under your breath about how inconsiderate and helpless they are, feel free to let them know you could most definitely use a hand. In that moment, they truly are unaware of what you're experiencing because they're focused on something totally non-related to you.
Rather than expecting them to "know better," clear your throat, center yourself, explain the situation and gently ask them for some help. They may grumble a bit, but once you've let them know you're in need of a hero they'll more than likely run to your rescue.
2. Notice. Instead of nagging about every little thing that hasn't gotten done, notice the things that have and commend accordingly. Just like when your boss gives you props for a job well done, the people in your circle will respond the same way you do and desire to do their best because they've been acknowledged. And so the circle of what goes around comes around begins. When you show kindness, respect and love to your people, they'll give you the same in return.
3. Talk. Always and I do mean always speak your truth with love and respect. If something's bothering you, find the most appropriate way to use your "I" statements to let the other person know something's on your mind.
For example, if your husband comes home and barely grunts in your direction, and you've been waiting all day to talk to him, try not to take it personally.
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Instead of making up a story that you've done something wrong, feel free to say, "Hey, I can see you're a little distracted this evening. Tough day at work?" This opens the door for him to respond with what's truly going on in his world, and a healthy conversation ensues rather than the curdling process of non-communication.
Whenever you use your "I" messages, you're diffusing any defensive reactions and softening the situation by showing you actually care about the person on the other end of the conversation.
And once they've been able to process their day out loud rather than internalizing situations, they'll have room to find out how your day at the office and with the kids has been.
Even if you're lactose intolerant and have to drink almond or soy milk, there's always an expiration date by which the milk needs to be used before it goes bad. Communication is 100 percent the same way.
So which would you rather have? A fridge (house) full of sour-smelling, unusable curdled liquid or fresh, healthy and pleasant tasting beverage the whole family enjoys? Communication it does a body good.
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Danica Trebel is a mom to two AMAZING teenage sons, a recovering perfectionist and a Life and Family Dynamics Coach. She specializes in helping families tune up their relationships through perspective, communication and faith.