We can only ever re-present the world to ourselves based on our own maps of reality, rather than reality itself.
Your thoughts and the thoughts of others simply represent reality. They could never be reality itself. Everything is perception.
Your map of the world will be unique to your values, attitudes, beliefs, experiences and stories.
No two maps are the same. Even when we think we are on the “same page” we are still talking about our own unique map.
What this means for relationships and communication with others is the importance of clarity. In communication, to avoid misunderstanding, their map needs to be defined as part of seeking clarity.
When communication with your child and even your partner, avoid making assumptions about what they might believe simply because we know what we believe. We cannot assume they think, feel or see the world the same way we do.
Removing assumptions in communication is about respecting the other person’s map of the world and being curious to explore it. It is through this exploration together that we learn what their map aka their perspective is.
We can’t use ‘logic’ with someone to change their map. We can’t simply see a flaw in someone’s thinking or feeling and point it out and expect them to change.
We must treat their map with respect because on some level their map is working for them. It might keep them safe from hurt, or keep them feeling happy, or comfortable. Whatever it gives them, it means they will continue with that map regardless of its flaws.
Think about someone who is constantly complaining. They’ve sensed that this is not very constructive. Yet they continue to whine, day after day.
Logic isn’t working. If we get curious about what is bothering them, and listen without judgement, justification or defensiveness, we learn much about their map. The thinking that is driving the behaviour.
With our young children, one of the challenges is that our assumptions about what is driving their behaviour can lead to us responding in a way the reinforces that behaviour. I know crazy. It’s that with kids, we are relating to a person with no logic or reasoning skills, particularly if under the ages of 8-10.
To find out more about this concept, the book Raising a Secure Child by Hoffman, Cooper and Powell can provide great insight and potentially open up the possibility of how to respond differently, having become aware of the factors.
The possibilities are as endless as there are people on the planet.
Our Opinion is Irrelevant for a healthy outcome.
It doesn’t matter what we think of their beliefs, or their map, which is why it is important to listen without judgement, justification or defensiveness. What matters is if that map of the world is lacking logic we can support them with clarifying the meanings they are creating.
As humans, we all manage the collection of data from our world through a process of distortion, deletion and generalisation. What that means is, that that we have capacity in our working memory, ie how we operate on the day to day basis, DDGs are what enables that part of the hard drive to process information that is actively in use, and the subconscious keeps the rest like a kind of archives. So we can allow in what we consider relevant and leave out what we consider irrelevant.
The problem with little kids is, they have many more DDGs, and their working memory does not have a critical thinking piece, as that is in the 8-10 you upgrade.
Power in Neurality
The power is in our neutrality about their behaviour, so that we can validate them. Be willing to validate it as their reality.
Validation is for the person, not agreeing with the words or approving the behaviour.
What it does do is allows the person in front of us to feel safe, or at least not serious threatened. Which means they can continue to think and learn.
We empathise with their experience, even if we don’t agree, or can’t agree with their position.
They are their feelings and thoughts.
If we dismiss or minimise their feelings, one of two things happens, they either stop trusting themselves, or stop trusting us.
Neither is a great outcome for their ongoing development of self-esteem.
Then we get curious.
If their belief/meaning serves them – that is – it is a close approximation of how things are and it is going to move them towards their desired goals – then validate AND reinforce the map.
Avoid a why question because Why can be seen as a threat, and in young children, they don’t have the capability of giving a thoughtful response to a why question, because that requires logic and reasoning.
I notice it a lot in parents of young children, and it tends to drive frustration in the parent, because the answer to a why question is generally literal. Eg, Why did you hit your brother? Answer Because I wanted to. Or something equally as useless from a gaining understanding of how we can support better outcomes next time.
Why might feel good to us, but for our child, is not that helpful, and potentially leads to further uncertainty, because of the potential energy emitting from us.
For young children, you can find lots of examples of navigating in How to Talk, so Little Kids will Listen by Janet Faber and Julie King.
And remember, sometimes, no matter how you approach the subject, your child may not do well. Grace and patience.
Appreciating, you are not just bigger and stronger, our role as a parent is to also be wiser and kinder.
It’s tough when we’re on the 3rd week of going round this same subject with our child, or it’s the 47th time today. It’s important to remember, that if our child could do better, they would.
If we are annoyed, their feeling of safe haven goes, and then they become anxious and can’t do any better. We literally handicap them in the way we respond. It’s tough, and it’s worth staying aware.
Remember our job as a parent is to be their safe haven. It can be tough for those of us that didn’t have that true safe haven experience growing up. Though is completely possible to develop the skills with conscious awareness and intentional action.
Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor,
Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.
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