Extending the ideas mentioned in the post Sports Playbook, people not only intend different things by certain actions, they express certain ideas by using different actions. This comes up most often in closer relationships, like in families. It is as if family members are trying to say similar things while speaking different languages.

With one couple that I worked with, when the man wanted to show his affection, he would buy things like jewelry for his wife. This is usually a safe bet. But in this case, his wife was uncomfortable with expensive gifts. They made her feel anxious about the money. She much preferred other expressions of affection, such as his being more physically affectionate and close to her, or his remembering to do things she had asked him to do. So in his ‘language,’ he was saying ‘I love you.’ But in her ‘language,’ he was being inconsiderate about her feelings about spending money.

The mistake that happens with a lot of families is that they tend to express themselves in a manner that they themselves would appreciate or understand. This is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And while that sounds noble and well meaning enough, it tends to miss something important.

That is why I believe in the platinum rule: Do unto others as they would have done unto them. Meaning, take the time to learn how your teen likes to be treated. What approach or words feel like an attack? When is a good time to approach him and when is a bad time to approach him? Does he do better with face-to-face conversations, or emails, or texts, or notes? Does he prefer requests/demands be made one at a time or all together in a list. There are ways of approaching your teen that makes him more receptive to what you have to say. And there are ways of saying what you have to say that also makes him more receptive. Do that instead of what comes naturally for you. Tell him or show him what you have to say in the way that he can hear it instead of how you would want to hear it said. Your message is more likely to get across.

On the other hand, when you feel your teen is being inconsiderate or mean, take the time to find out what he was trying to say from his perspective, instead of simply reacting based on how it felt to you. You may be surprised to find out how harmless or self-involved his intentions were. His behavior probably has more to do with him than how it affected you. Often, it can be hard to believe that the other person can view a situation or an action so differently. This is your opportunity to teach him how that action makes you feel and what works better for you.


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