“Use your inside voice” is a directive adults use with little ones, as they try to get them to realize they shouldn’t scream inside. Oh, it’s perfectly fine for them to do so at the playground….in the schoolyard…wherever their voices will be absorbed by the great outdoors.
If they need to reach a distant friend, they can bellow away.
But adults train children to be sensitive to how that same yell can wreak damage to eardrums, if they yell, indoors.
I suggest we take that childhood directive and tailor it in another way.
“Use company manners” with loved ones.
What do I mean? Don’t allow our usual take-for-granted attitude regarding close family members to sabotage how we interact with them.
Case in point: You’re tired. You’ve done the preparing…the packing…the traveling to get to a place for the family celebration and you’re exhausted. Then, when someone in the family approaches you in a less-than-expected manner, you blow up or show annoyance or just plain ol’ irritation.
Why? Because you can.
It’s your mother….or your Dad….or your sister. It’s never one of those who enjoy “Favored Party Status,” the ones you never want to see your “other side,” for fear they’ll be off and running and never come back.
How do I know it works this way? I’m one of the classic offenders.
Recently, husband and I went to Acadia National Park, a beautiful, natural preserve in Maine.
While there, we went biking, and on a particularly-rocky trail, I heard movement behind me. Now, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve directed my husband to go ahead of me, for he follows too closely and I fear an abrupt stop on my part (avoiding a near-accident with another) will result in painful consequences for all.
I’m not paranoid; it’s almost happened on countless occasions.
So, when I heard the labored breathing behind me, I became incensed and bellowed out:.“Go ahead of me, G-damn it!!!” I said.
From the corner of my eye, I saw a little old man, all hunkered low over the bike handles, proceed to pass me. I stared, slack-jawed, in amazement.
I was mortified. I’d just sworn in the most blasphemist manner, at a complete stranger—an octogenarian at that!
Then it occurred to me: I would have considered my profane tirade perfectly OK if the object had been my husband. But since he wasn’t, it (my swearing) wasn’t.
At that point, I recognized my own hypocrisy, and I wondered: “Why does it seem perfectly OK to treat family members with such disrespect, and/or foul language, when we’d never unleash it on anyone whose opinion we truly worry about?
I knew the answer, too: We do it because we can…
I suggest we all use “company manners” in the days ahead, as the stressful holidays approach. It seems only fair we give wider berth to those who are the most important in our lives.
What do you think? Do you fall victim to giving short shrift to the very ones who do so much, the ones we should show appreciation to, for all the wonderful things they do?