Walking down the hall a few days ago, I overheard a student brusquely asking a professor, “I need you to show me how to do that again.” I couldn’t believe what I heard. My initial internal reaction was, “Um, excuse me little girl, but I need you to show your teacher a little more courtesy.” To be fair, said student probably meant no disrespect when she asked for some help, but her tone wasn’t nearly as polite she may have thought it was. And that’s exactly my point. She needed to be more aware of her tone. In fact, we all need to be more aware of how we say things to others, myself especially included. “Could you please show me how to do that again?” is a perfectly reasonable and respectful request. So is “Would you mind showing me again how to do that?” The whole interaction and my reaction to it reminded me of this scene from A Few Good Men:
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that many of us–again, myself included–have to learn the hard way. It has taken me a very long time and I have certainly offended more than a few people trying to learn how to regulate my tone and volume. Admittedly, I’m still a work in progress, but lately it’s been easier, and I think it has to do with how my wife and I speak to him and to each other.
We’re trying to teach our son to ask for things nicely. He sometimes resorts to squealing or screaming if he doesn’t get exactly what he wants exactly when he wants it. “Use your words” and “What do you say?” are common refrains in our household. In addition to the actual words, I’m making a concerted effort to speak more slowly and softly. Lately, instead of raising my voice, which comes naturally for me, I use a markedly lower volume and a deliberately slower cadence. Not only does this (hopefully) teach him not to yell or scream when faced with a frustrating or maddening situation, but it also helps keep my temper at bay. It’s a long-term win-win that is already proving beneficial for everyone on Team Endrinal.