According to Pulitzer Prize winning American cartoonist Doug Marlette, “We are all children in various stages of growing up.” Of course I’m sensitive to the fact that children are in various stages and sometimes the differences are amazing. There are some kids who would benefit from the advice they should “grow up”–even if only a little. There are others who would perhaps benefit from being reminded it’s okay to be a child. I recall one-fourth grader who visited the classroom while I was straightening up after a day of substitute teaching. This young man is nine years old going on forty, at least most of the time. He noted that he cherished his opportunities to visit with teachers after the school day was over because he could “have some really mature conversations.”
During our “mature conversation” we discussed a number of topics including enjoying life. he also observed that pre K and Kindergarten were the best years of his life. The reason, he admitted, was that he didn’t have to do much. Now what adult doesn’t occasionally yearn for the relatively worry-free childhood years?
I suppose a truly in depth conversation would have led us to consider the possibility of balancing behaviors without necessarily labeling them. I rather enjoy thinking like a kid. It’s freeing and opens the door to creativity and it’s a whole lot of fun. I remember one day while visiting an art class I found myself getting involved only to discover I had managed to get red paint on my pants. The kids thought it was rather funny when I said, “Uh oh. My Mom is not going to be happy about this.”
My communication style seems to change when I’m around the kids a lot. Just yesterday I was in a very formal adult setting and realized in my excitement I’d said, “Oh man… you know what’s really cool about that?” I also noticed it was quite effective. Perhaps more effective than making the adult statement, “There are some very unique benefits associated with…” The amused look on my listener’s faces suggested they enjoyed the simplicity and noticed my enthusiasm.
There are two communication tips we might consider even when we are having mature conversations. Unfortunately I’m not sure who said it first, but the command, “Explain it to me like I’m a third grader” often will stop people dead in their tracks. Too many adults have not only grown up but they have also outgrown their third grade vocabulary and simplicity.
When I work with volunteers in classrooms, I can watch the kids’ eyes glaze over when an adult doesn’t get down to their level. Or maybe that sentence should read “up to that level” because there’s a lot to be said for keeping communication simple. Getting and keeping things simple is not always easy after we become an adult.
The second communication tip we might consider is “Reduce it to the ridiculous.” Except maybe it’s not ridiculous to reduce things to the lowest possible level. Let me demonstrate with a seasonally appropriate observation that isn’t reduced:
It would bring me great pleasure if we could engage our orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction, perhaps based on the upcoming or current season featuring a celebration of the heritage of those hearkening from a republic consisting of 26 of 32 counties comprising an island originally associated with the United Kingdom located in the Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe.
Or we could reduce it to, “Kiss me, I’m Irish!”