“The giving of love is an education in itself.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
So, I noticed something interesting about my daughter this week. I suppose I had noticed it before, but this week it seemed to really catch my attention more than usual.
Kelly experienced a pretty big disappointment a few days ago. I won’t get into the details (that’s her story to tell, not mine), but just know that it was a pretty tough blow for my super strong daughter. She handled it with grace, as she always does, but she couldn’t hide the fact that she was temporarily heartbroken.
So, I did what I always do. What comes natural to me when I see someone I love in pain. I reached out to hug her.
See, I completely forgot who my daughter is. That hugging thing? Nuh uh. When she is upset, she wants to be left alone. She doesn’t mean to be cruel about it – she’s not trying to hurt anyone – she just needs to be left alone. A hug does not help. Not for her. She’d rather deal with it on her own. Now, talking – she’s fine with that. Saying I understand how she feels? I think that helped some. Showing her one of my old writings about disappointment to remind her that it’s not the end of the world and that her time to shine will come again soon? Yep. She appreciated that.
But a hug? No way. Not cool.
And see, I know that. I do. I just forget. She’s different than me. When I’m upset, I want to be hugged. I want you to wallow in the misery with me. “Come on over here and snuggle and feel my pain, people. FEEL IT!” But her? Nope. “I got this. I don’t want your sympathy, I’ll be fine.”
This little incident this week reminded me of a class I took once. Well, a class I was sent to through my job at the time.
I was having trouble getting along with one of the attorneys I worked for at a large law firm. She was only a year older than me and the two of us just seemed to butt heads non-stop. Although neither of us “told on” each other or anything, the fact that we didn’t get along was pretty well-known. Well, occasionally the firm would send the employees to various seminars here and there, and I was chosen by the human resources department to go to one entitled, “How to Get Along With Difficult People.” Ha! In your face, boss lady. See? Seeeeeee? Everyone knows how hard you are to deal with.
So, I took my smug self to the seminar and guess what I found out?
I was the difficult person.
But no, seriously, this seminar was awesome. We were all paired into groups and did surveys to figure out what our personality types were, and which certain personality types were the most non-compatible. Lo and behold, my personality type and boss lady’s personality type? Exact opposites. And the great thing about the seminar is that it showed the pros and cons of every single personality type and the “whys” behind the head-butting with the certain types. As I listened, I heard so many examples of scenarios that my boss and I had been through and it became glaringly apparent why we weren’t getting along. We just didn’t know how to treat each other. What she needed was a foreign concept to me because it was nothing like what I needed. And vice versa.
And the solution?
Well, it was pretty simple actually. They bent the golden rule a little. (Please don’t tell my Grandma I just said that – she’ll disown me.) They said instead of the old standard, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” maybe it needs to be tweaked a little. Maybe that’s not what you need to do at all. Maybe you need to get to know that person’s personality, know how they operate and know what they prefer and what they don’t, and then…”Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”
Yes, I like to be hugged when I’m upset, but Kelly doesn’t. I shouldn’t impose my personality onto her. It’s not what she needs.
I know I’m not saying anything new here. Most of you know about the “love languages” idea by Gary Chapman (read about it here if you don’t). This kind of thing has already been discussed in depth. You can answer a bunch of questions on the website (or in the book if you have a copy) and through a scoring guide based on your answers, you can find out exactly what “love language” you speak. What things make you feel the most loved.
And although I think it’s fascinating, and super cool, maybe…just maybe….it doesn’t have to be quite so complicated as that. No scoring system, no survey, no quiz. Maybe it’s as simple as what I just learned with my daughter. Don’t give them the kind of love that you know how to give. Learn who they are, what they need, and then give them the love they want to receive.
And hey, you know what? It’ll probably end up working both ways.
Take Kelly for instance. Although she’s not the huggy/kissy type, she knows that her mom is. And so, she’s been known to concede every now and then…
And that sure does make for a happy momma.
Learn how to love each other, people. It’s worth the time it takes, and makes everyone just a little happier. And isn’t that what we’re all here for?
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
– Mother Teresa