If you’re like me, you can’t count how many times these questions spew out of your mouth in frustration.
Why on earth would you draw all over your face?
Why did you leave the laundry basket in the middle of the kitchen instead of taking it to the laundry room?
How come you just threw your cup of water on the floor?
Why are there car keys in the sink?
Why in God’s name did I just find my missing eye glasses in my shoe?
These are the moments that make you really scratch your head because you just can’t comprehend what your son, daughter, husband, wife, mom, dad, friend, (yourself) etc. was thinking. Their actions seem completely illogical. Something you would never do.
While you scream out “Why did you do that?!” what you’re really saying is “This makes no sense. I don’t understand!” ” I can’t begin to comprehend what led you to make this decision!”
The tone of these questions is one of frustration, judgement even.
And we know that tone is extremely important when conversing with others.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone says something abruptly and it pushes your buttons? Yet, you know someone else could have said the exact same thing in a different tone and you would have reacted completely different.
I used to get upset at a friend constantly for this. Her tone was very abrupt. She wasn’t saying anything particularly offensive but she was blurting out statements. It took me a long time to figure out that there was no need to be put off by her. English was her second language and she hadn’t yet mastered the nuances of tone in communicating.
And while we inherently understand the importance of tone when dealing with other people, we often don’t even consider the role it plays in our self dialogue and the way we process the situations around us.
Consider the previous examples of those “What the heck just happened” moments. The statement comes flying out of our mouths in frustration. We can’t comprehend the rationale that allowed the events to unfold as they did, which makes us feel helpless.
Now consider asking the same question in different tone. This time, ask the question out of curiosity. “What the heck just happened?” “Why did you do that?” These questions now serve a completely different purpose.
All of the sudden these questions are ones of intrigue and worth further investigation.
Why did you throw your water on the floor?
- Were you upset?
- Did you not want water?
- Were you trying to get my attention?
- Did you want to splash in a puddle?
- Were you excited to break out the paper towels and clean up a mess?
Why are the car keys in the sink?
- Did something happen that caused you to drop everything?
- Were you so tired you didn’t even notice you dropped them?
The typical reaction of “Why did you do that!?” has now turned into a tool to figure out the reason behind the seemingly irrational behaviour. Even if it doesn’t give you some insight into how to prevent the situation from happening again it may help diffuse those negative feelings. The situations you find the most irritating might even become a source of comedy once the veil of confusion is lifted.
Children don’t tend to act completely illogically, and when you understand how the situation came to be from their perspective, you may discover how it made perfect sense to them at the time.
Obviously, we are still going to react and get frustrated. But if something really annoying just happened, calm down and see if you can shift your tone from frustration to curiosity.
It probably won’t stop these situations from happening completely, but this approach might make the difference between it happening over and over to becoming a rare occurrence. And it will certainly take the edge off of any frustration you might feel as a result.
Let’s face it, anything that can help our sanity even a little bit should be considered a win!