I picked my kids up this week after work, only to find that during the course of the day, my daughter had lost her voice. She could whisper but that was about it. As we drove home she told us about her day. Without thinking, her brother responded to her by whispering. She replied to him that he didn’t have to whisper, his voice was just fine. I stepped in to defend him because this has happened to me as well, during a bout of laryngitis my coworkers all whispered to me even though they were perfectly fine. It’s a very interesting response and one that you do without even thinking. When someone whispers something to you, you automatically whisper back. When someone is sharing something exciting with you, it’s hard not to get excited too. It is an automatic social response to reflect the tone and energy of the person you’re interacting with. In fact to respond in any other way takes real thought and effort.
I was reading something this week that said you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, your language changes and your standards change. What an interesting thought. I’ve certainly witnessed language changing. Thinking back to high school and college, my close friends and I had numerous phrases we would often say. We developed inside jokes and points of reference based on scenarios that we had all experienced together. I’ve seen the same thing happen in a work environment. When working with a client from Australia it was hard not to pick up phrases (how are you going?) or change the pronunciation of a word to fit their accent.
Adapting your language is obvious, but what about adapting your standards? Again it’s something that happens subtly, but happens nonetheless. A friend who is passionate about running, may give you the motivation you need to lace up your shoes and head to the gym. Sharing a healthy recipe might get you to try new foods and explore healthier eating choices. That’s one of the benefits of relationships, sharing of ideas to learn and explore new things we might not have experienced on our own.
The people around us also influence our emotions. Our emotions in turn influence our attitude and our energy. Earlier I mentioned when someone shares something exciting with you it’s hard not to get excited with them. You can replace the word exciting with any other feeling – happy, sad, anxious, confident, worry, love, etc. Feelings are contagious and we can easily take on the emotions that someone else brings to the table. When someone brings you an urgent situation at work, it’s easy to rise to that level of urgency and the anxiety that goes along with it. It’s harder and takes more conscious effort to stay calm and address the situation is a less stressful manner. On the other hand when you attend a family gathering or wedding where you are surrounded by love and affection, you can literally feel the love.
Like whispering to someone who whispers to us, many of these happen as a natural response that we don’t give much thought to. Knowing that you are the average of the five (or so) people that you spend the most time with – are you spending your time with the right people? Are they empowering you to be the best that you can be? And conversely, are you empowering them to be the best that they can be? Or is one of them dragging you down or causing you to feel emotions that you don’t want to feel (anger, frustration, sadness)? Once you realize that you are whispering when you don’t have to, you can speak up for yourself once again.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.