I’m Not Your Mother and I’m Not Your Father: How We Speak to Adults

“…all spoke the same language. That was the time when words were like magic…” Inuit

If you are not my parent, why do I feel like a child?

Growing up in Alabama, or at least trying to, my mother almost always talked to my dad as if he were her son or her father. Dad most often interacted with my mother like she was his daughter or his mother.

The language, tone, and style never (or almost never) were adult to adult. Now, I’m not the only Alabama man who had this unequal, paternal and maternal mode set in stone by the time I came out of the womb but mastered it shortly thereafter.

“Why did you leave your clothes on the floor?”

“When are you going into therapy?”

“No matter how many times I tell you…”

“You should call your parents.”

“Why do you let the garbage or the bills pile up before attending to them?”

Folks these are statements and others like them suggest they are being spoken to a child or an unruly adolescent, but men and women – intelligent, well-educated adults – speak to each other this way on a daily basis.

“You’re not going to work dressed like that are you?”

“Honey, you need to change your dress because it’s too revealing.”

I think you get my drift. Well some couples are drowning in this sea of unsolicited criticism and all the while not exactly knowing a better way because we’ve been talking like this and hearing others talk down to or up to but never unilaterally, respectfully, and balanced.

I’ve been studying, reading, learning, and practicing a better way of communicating for over 35 years and I still slip as I’m sure most of you do.

In my next blog post, I’m going to introduce a communication concept I call “compassionate assertiveness” and how to say “No” to unsolicited criticism.

I hope you’ll join me and until then we all must remember as often as we can to try and speak this almost foreign language called “adult-to-adult.”

Moment by moment, things are losing their hardness; now even my body lets the light through.” Virginia Woolf