Sometime last year, one of my neighbors and her daughter were playing with balloons in the compound.
My flatmate was outside too and because my window opens to the side of the compound they all were, I could hear what was going on.
Suddenly, I heard my flatmate exclaim that the girl’s dress was smelling and that the mom should change it. She was like, «what do you mean?» My flatmate mumbled some words and closed with «You have to change it!»
At that point, I could tell the conversation was going to get more interesting so I peeped through my window: the mom was standing a few feet away from my flatmate and the little girl.
As he motioned for the mom to come closer to smell the dress herself, I knew without any doubt that this was going to be something I’d remember for quite a while.
Of course, the conversation quickly escalated into an argument with both of them raising their voices. My flatmate felt the mom was dismissing the only fact in the conversation: the dress was smelling. The mom felt his approach to the matter was rude: how dare you tell me what to wear or not to wear for my daughter — you don’t even have one yet.
To tell a mom how to raise her daughter especially if you don’t have one yet is something I’d not try to do. If something is really getting at you and you want to help, try to do it in a friendly prescriptive way; not a teacher-like corrective way.
Framing it in a suggestive way isn’t everything but it matters. It increases your chances of acceptance.
Try not to demand, suggest instead. Try to not say, «you have to do this,» say «would you consider doing this»
If you’re talking to people, the way you frame your thoughts keeps them listening. If you’re writing, it keeps your readers reading.
If my flatmate had suggested that maybe, just maybe something was off about the dress, and didn’t demand the mom change it (because that’s what you’re supposed to do to a smelly dress), maybe the conversation would’ve played out better.
As they say, people will forget what you say or did, but how you made them feel? That they won’t forget. He made her feel less of a clean mom and that hurts.
I also remember one time, one of my colleagues turned friend had a cough. I called her the next day to ask how she was doing. «How’s your cough?» I asked. «Not my cough, in Jesus’ name,» she said. I smiled and rephrased, «how’s the cough (affecting you)?» She then laughed and responded.
She didn’t like the way I framed the question in the first place. She’s a Christian so suggesting that the cough is hers by asking how her cough is, isn’t considered good practice.
Again, framing matters. Framing in the right context matters. Get your framing right or at least, acknowledging that your framing wasn’t right and trying to reframe can get you better responses.
Another example, although a bit literal but you’ll enjoy it:
I met this lady with her two beautiful girls at the eye clinic when I wanted to do my yearly eye check and change my glasses or switch to contacts. (Again, I didn’t get contacts. Sigh).
They were joking about how almost everyone in their house wears glasses and somehow, it made me smile. The lady wanted to get new reading glasses but because her daughters just got new (expensive) ones too, the doctor asked if she’d want the ‘budget’ frames to reduce the cost.
She said yes, but not just any budget frame. Paused for a bit and concluded with, «I know it’s just reading glasses but the frame is the icing — It’s got to be nice.»
The frame is the icing.
That’s what got me. The frame is the icing on the cake. It has to be nice. It has to matter.
Don’t get me wrong. The lens is very important — if it isn’t the right power or doesn’t absorb enough computer light, of what use is it? But what about the frame? Passers-by don’t give a shit about your lens. All they see is the frame and it leaves a lasting impression on them. They use it to describe you or quickly make a judgment about you like: fashionable or not fashionable? interesting or not interesting?
I used to lose potential girlfriends back when I was younger because of my then ugly framed glasses. But I didn’t know until I dug out my old glasses a few weeks back and I couldn’t believe I wore those pieces of plastic for years. Damn.
Don’t be like me. Wear glasses with sexy frames.
Frame your conversations better. Frame your arguments better.
Reframe your thoughts if you have to because all of this will leave a lasting impression on the people you interact with.
Again, not demanding you do, but try to make that impression positive!