Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's The Way You Say It

The words you choose are important, but the tone and inflection and meaning you put behind them makes or breaks the moment.

For example: as a pre-driving teen I had a little trouble on a three-wheeler while spending the weekend at a friend's place. Soft gravel road, a bridge, and my inexperience culminated with the vehicle in the creek, me dangling from the rail, the family racing to the scene and much shouting and screaming from all parties (Really. I was not the only one shrieking like a girl)

I was uncomfortable, and not just because I was hanging from the railing staring at the wrecked three-wheeler drowning itself in the creek. Naturally I felt awful for what I'd done and the damage I'd caused.

My friend's family was kind and gracious and worried more for my well-being than the certain expense to the vehicle. Aside from a splinter or two, I was fine.

Until my friend's little brother decided to comfort me. The words, "It's all right. We know you didn't MEAN to wreck the three-wheeler" and all variations on that theme were incessant in the hours after the accident. It got so bad I started wishing I'd gone into the creek and the three-wheeler had run off on its own to flatten the child...but I digress. His mouth ran so fast and long in the name of comfort his parents even sided with his sister and told him to stuff a sock in it. Honestly, those words still haunt me on quiet nights in the woods with a creek chattering nearby...but I digress again.

When offering comfort, I recommend keeping it short and simple and sticking to the positive. I had a flat tire yesterday (that I couldn't change, but that's another post) and I had to scramble the armed forces, 411, and the back up plan for carpool. Unfortunately for my daughter one of her friends decided to stay with her until I arrived. Before I could get word to my daughter about the sitch, this friend kept blurting such unhelpful comments as:

"Gee, I hope nothing's happened."
"She's never this late."
"Do you think she's been in an accident?"
"She always calls you right? Whatever could be wrong?"
"What will you do if she's hurt?"

This, is not comfort, it is exacerbation of anxiety and promotion of dramatic tendencies and we need LESS of both. So think before you speak and keep it positive, people, lest someone find a sock to silence you.

the primary reason three-wheelers went off the market-
and author of the action packed Justice Incarnate
and the YA fantasy Pixie Chicks.


  1. I completely understand! Sometimes it's just best to say nothing at all. Why is is that you'll say one thing that doesn't come out quite right so you try to fix it with another statement even more inane!

    I shuddered when I read about your flat tire. My husband asks, on a regular basis, "What would you do if you had a flat tire?"

    "Duh...I dunno."

    Glad you're all right.


  2. Ah, yes. The world is full of drama queens, and not all of them are women. Drama queens are the ones who hang around accident scenes waiting to see who died and are deeply disappointed (although they'd never admit it) when everyone walks away from the crash intact. Drama queens are the first ones to call all their friends with bad news (as long as that news happens to be about someone else!). They're sympathetic on the surface, but they can't wait to get away so they can spread the story of your problems. Drama queens. They're little children who never grew up.