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Why Interrupting Isn’t Rude

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Interrupting is often linked to a disorganized brain.

Interrupting actually makes sense when we understand what goes on in a person’s brain if he or she has incomplete lower brain development.

Namely, such people’s cortex is already preoccupied with seeking ways to compensate for automatic brain functions that we’d ordinarily acquire if that development were complete.  But it’s not, so such people end up with what we call a disorganized brain, where some parts aren’t doing their job while other parts are trying to pick up the slack.

With all that chaos going on, working memory is going to be impaired—which then specifically explains why someone with incomplete lower brain development may be prone to interrupting.

That’s because working memory is an active part of our memory system. It helps us keep information in mind while engaged in something else—and that requires a little memory juggling.  But recall, a person with incomplete lower brain development is already juggling a lot as a result of having a disorganized brain.

And whether or not a person realizes he or she has incomplete lower brain development (and therefore has less working memory “bandwidth”), he or she knows, via experience, thoughts are often lost if not shared immediately. That knowledge is then compounded by an on-going angst that’s also common among those with incomplete lower brain development.  In other words, not only do they know such thoughts will be gone, but they also start to feel anxious if they have to wait to speak.

So what’s the quickest way for such people to keep a thought and forego the angst? Interrupt!  Yet, that’s not really a great plan since such action ultimately ends up irritating and annoying others.

But instead of getting upset with people we view as chronic interrupters, maybe we alter what we do, rather than hope they’ll just suddenly change. With that mindset, here are some ideas.

  1. We don’t give speeches or tell long stories or give lengthy directions.  Instead, we say no more than a sentence or two, and then we pause.  In other words, we create openings for those who have difficulty keeping thoughts in working memory so they can now jump in without interrupting.
  1. We establish when someone can and cannot interrupt us. For example, when interacting with kids, we create a list (laced with humor) to underscore that only extreme emergencies warrant an interruption during specific times.  Such a list may be: You can interrupt me if your pants are on fire, if there is a boa constrictor in the room, or aliens are about to abduct you.  For everything else, you must wait.
  1. We might additionally help such kids by adding a visual or tactile cue that reminds them when they cannot interrupt. For example, we may wear an outrageous hat that signifies no one can approach us so long as we have that hat on. Something like that works well when teachers are interacting with a group of students in one part of the room and do not want to be interrupted by those working at their seat. Or, we can establish that someone only speaks if he or she is holding a special stone when people are offering ideas during a discussion.
  1. We teach people simple proprioceptive movements they might do while waiting to speak since such stimuli is calming (and, therefore, reduces any potential angst that may surface when waiting to speak). Such actions may include squeezing hands, crossing arms and pressing the hands on thighs, and interlacing fingers and pushing them down on top of the head.
  1. We can teach people to write (or draw a picture of) the thought they’re holding. That not only helps them remember what they wanted to say, but it also gives them something to do while waiting.

With the above in mind, here’s something to ponder. If the dictionary defines rude as “showing no respect or consideration,” maybe—just maybe—we’re the ones being rude if we don’t initiate simple actions that clearly help people with a disorganized brain.

 

Do You Know What Your Child Thinks?

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We can’t assume to know what kids are thinking.

I recently came across a story that underscores how kids often see the world with very different eyes than adults.  Here’s the story.

A little girl was in desperate need of a blood donor, but there was none to be found. As a last resort, the doctors checked her 6-year-old brother—and he was a match!

So the parents and the doctor set the boy down and explained how he could help save his sister so that she wouldn’t die. He just needed to give her his blood.

However, the little boy asked if he could have some time to think about it.  His parents were surprised by the response, but they honored his request to ponder the decision.

The next day, the little boy informed everyone that he agreed to give his sister what she needed.

The hospital staff moved quickly. His sister’s rare blood disorder was at a critical stage, so they could not waste any time.

The medical team put the little boy in a bed next to his sister. As soon as the transfusion began, everyone was thrilled for the little girl.

But a few minutes later, the little boy turned to the doctor and in a quiet voice asked, “How long before I die?”

Yes, the little boy thought that if he gave his blood to his sister, she would live—but he would then die. That’s why he needed some time to think about his decision.

As parents or professionals who work with kids, what can we glean from this story?  Namely, we may need to probe a little in order to discover what kids are truly thinking. We can’t assume that our vantage of the world is the same as theirs.

In the above story, the parents or doctors could have responded as follows when the little boy did not immediately say he’d be a blood donor. “We absolutely respect your decision to give us an answer later, but we’re curious . . . why might you want more time?”

If they had asked that question, right then, everyone would have known that the little boy had misunderstood his role as a donor.

But it doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as the misunderstanding in that story.

At the Brain Highways Center, parents often share their concerns about a behavior specific to their child. For example, they may say that they’re worried that their son is antisocial since he always wanders from the guests at a party and then spends the rest of the time off by himself.

I then always ask, “What does your child say when you ask why he does that?”

To date, I don’t think I’ve ever had a parent respond to that specific question—no matter what concern they have just shared. Instead, they give me a blank look and then note that they have no idea.

In other words, the parents have never asked their child what he or she may be thinking or needing when doing a particular behavior.

Yet, when we do ask the child, more times than not, he or she has a very explicit reason for the behavior which then, more times than not, wipes away a lot of the parents’ initial concern about the situation.

Sometimes, we discover that the child isn’t even aware that he’s doing the behavior of concern or, if he is aware, he does not view it as problematic. Regardless of whatever information the child shares, the parents or professionals now have new insights on how to best move forward.

Note that this gentle probing is not the same as asking a question in a prosecutorial way, where the child thinks he’s being drilled.  Rather, this information-seeking approach is always done with a true sense of curiosity that has no judgment attached to the answer.

So, talk to kids.  Learn how they’re viewing the world.  Their answers may surprise you more than once.

The Taking Care of Business Quiz

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If feels good to “take care of business.”

What is Taking Care of Business?

It’s a cortex way of getting everyone’s needs met. When using this approach, we:

  • Know what we are needing and wanting
  • Consider what others are needing and wanting
  • Keep both in mind when exploring options
  • Are specific and clear as to what we’d like to happen and why
  • Avoid being both defensive or offensive
  • Offer doables that move the situation forward
  • Ask instead of tell
  • Infuse humor and creative thinking whenever applicable

Quiz Directions

So, how well do you “take care of business?”

To find out, encourage your kids and other family members to take the quiz.  Read each situation listed in the quiz and the possible ways to respond. Choose the answer that is most similar to what you’d likely do if you were in that circumstance.

When you’re finished, read the answers and explanations to learn which do and do not reflect taking care of business and why.

To note: This quiz includes problems that both kids and adults often face. So, if a situation seems more applicable for a child or vice-versa, just modify it. For example, a child who does not want to take out the trash can be easily changed to be an adult who does not want to do a particular assignment at work.

Last, it’s important to remember: Taking care of business doesn’t mean that we automatically get the outcome we desire. But, hands-down, it’s still the most likely way we’ll move forward.

The Quiz

Situation 1: You’ve heard that someone is spreading gossip about you that is not true.

a) You bad-mouth that person, as well.

b) You do nothing, and try to avoid that person as much as possible.

c) You call that person out in front of others, demanding an apology.

d) You approach the person and say that you’re thinking she may have some misinformation and would like to clarify (and then do that).

 

Situation 2: You’re informed of a new rule when you take your father to his health clinic. Starting today, all patients must show a photo ID. However, your father did not bring any ID with him.

a) You reschedule another appointment (and ensure your father brings his ID).

b) You firmly point out that this rule is new, and you were not informed of it previously—so it should not apply today.

c) You acknowledge that you don’t want the person checking patients in to get in trouble by sidestepping the rule, but you’re frustrated since you’ve driven a long way and your father needs this appointment. So, you ask if there are other ways to verify that’s him (e.g. confirm his address, phone number, social security number) that’s already in the computer and . . . with a twinkle in your eye, use your hands to frame his face and say, “And this could be the photo ID.”

d) You tell the person checking patients in (who knows your father) that it’s silly to ask him for an ID since he already greeted him by name.

 

Situation 3: You’re sitting on the sidelines during the tournament, and it doesn’t appear that you’re ever going to get to play.

a) You sit stoically, but then break down (i.e. become upset) once you’re alone with your parents.

b) You act as though you don’t care while everyone else is being subbed in the game (don’t even watch all of the game).

c) You get up and demand that the coach gives you a chance to play, pointing out that you paid your money to be in this tournament, too.

d) You are fully engaged from the sidelines, watching what players on the field do that may have earned them time on the field. After the game is over, you ask the coach to give you three specifics to work on that may result in more playing time for you.

 

Situation 4: Someone has just criticized you in front of others.

a) You defend yourself.

b) You say something that is critical of that person.

c) You say nothing.

d) You respond by shining the spotlight back on that person and saying, “What were you hoping I’d do with that information?”

 

Situation 5: You don’t like the chore of taking out the trash, but that’s the job you’ve been assigned.

a) You whine whenever you have to do this.

b) You approach your parents and say: I know that we all need to pitch in to help around the house, but you may not know . . .I really don’t like taking out the trash. Is there another chore I could do instead of that one?

c) You do a terrible job (e.g. spill trash), hoping that your parents will think they need to assign this chore to someone else.

d) You do it, but you scowl to make it clear that you don’t like this job.

 

Situation 6: Various co-workers never clean up their dishes or trash after eating in the staff lounge.

a) You complain about those who don’t clean up to those who do.

b) You send an email to all your co-workers saying, “Due to budget cuts, we’ve had to lay off the maid for the staff lounge.”

c)  You send an email to everyone saying, “Due to budget cuts, we’ve had to lay off the maid for the staff lounge;)  So, how about we agree to a day where each of us is in charge of making sure all dishes are washed and all trash is cleared from the tables?  If you’re willing to do so, please email me which day(s) would work best for you to assume that role. Thanks.”

d) Pick up after those who leave their dishes and trash—and do not say a word.

 

Answers

Situation 1: You’ve heard that someone is spreading gossip about you that is not true.

Answer: d

This response does not judge the person or assume she was trying to “hurt” you by telling others false information. It also gives you a chance to clarify, without putting the other person on the defensive.

Responses “a” and “c” will only likely escalate the situation. Even if in response “c” you note what information was false, that part of the message won’t be heard since the approach is accusatory and focused on making the other person admit she was wrong.

Note that response “b” is only a possible solution if gossip truly does not bother you or whatever is being spread will not cause future problems (as a result of others hearing and acting on the misinformation) or if you can actually avoid that person. Those are a lot of variables, which is why this response may not actually take care of business.

 

Situation 2: You’re informed of a new rule when you take your father to his health clinic: Starting today, all patients must show a photo ID. However, your father did not bring any ID with him.

Answer: c

This response acknowledges that the person who works at the clinic needs to do his job as directed while also giving him an opportunity to meet your need (i.e. have your father keep his appointment).

Response “a” meets the need of the person checking patients in, but it does not meet your father’s need to keep his appointment that day.  Responses “b” and “d” do not acknowledge that the person who works at the clinic is trying to follow the new rules and will likely put that person on the defensive.

 

Situation 3: You’re sitting on the sidelines during the tournament, and it doesn’t appear that you’re ever going to get to play.

Answer: d

This response allows the coach to know what you’re needing and wanting while shining the spotlight on him to give you specific ways to improve.

Responses “a,” “b,” and “c” do nothing to move you forward (i.e. get more playing time). In fact, response “c” is just likely to put the coach on the defensive.

 

Situation 4: Someone has just criticized you in front of others.

Answer: d

This response sidesteps a need to defend yourself, while asking the person who made the comment to clarify his intent behind sharing the comment.  By doing the latter, the focus is immediately placed on the person who made the comment, rather than on you.

Responses “a” and “b” will only escalate the situation.  If you say nothing (response “c”), you may still antagonize the person if he thinks you’re ignoring him (and he will then likely criticize you more).

 

Situation 5: You don’t like the chore of taking out the trash, but that’s the job you’ve been assigned to do.

Answer: b

This response acknowledges that all family members need to contribute and help around the house, while opening the door to explore whether there’s any flexibility in who does what job.

Response “a,” c,” and “d” do not take care of business because there is no acknowledgment as to why you might be asked to do this chore. Moreover, if continual whining or scowling or passive aggressive behavior (i.e. doing a terrible job) ultimately gets you out of doing the chore, you have not only missed an opportunity to take care of business, but your brain now also incorrectly registers that such unproductive behavior may be helpful.

 

Situation 6: Various coworkers never clean up their dishes or trash after eating in the staff lounge.

Answer: c

This response begins by using humor. Yet, unlike “b,” this answer also specifically notes what isn’t being cleaned in the lounge and offers a solution/doable to improve the situation. This response additionally asks, rather than tells, co-workers to take responsibility. Last, it gives yet another doable by spelling out exactly how coworkers can respond if they agree to be in charge of clean-up for a day.

In contrast, response “a” (like “b”) does nothing to improve the situation.

Yes, response “d” ensures that the staff lounge is clean. But, over time, you may start to feel as though you’re the only one being responsible and, therefore, start to judge or resent those who continue to leave their mess, as well as those who do nothing to remedy the situation.

 

 

How Pink Slime Affects Us All

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Our choice of words often may have more power than we realize.

The meat industry has been using a ground mixture of scrap parts—mostly connective tissue and fat—as meat filler for years. But it was only after a microbiologist created the moniker “pink slime” that social media took note.

Yes, pink slime is a two-word combo designed to get your attention and cause worry.

But if two simple words can cause such frenzy in the media, how often does our choice of words trigger similar negativity and angst in daily life?  For example, do we refer to people as poor listeners, master manipulators, classic underachievers? Do we perhaps frame others as an unbelievable klutz or incredibly lazy?

If so, don’t those (and similar) word combos have the same adverse effect on people as the media calling meat filler pink slime?

In truth, there are hundreds of thousands of words at our disposal.  So, we decide whether we choose word combos that reek negativity or those that show insight and compassion.

For example, it’s possible that people have difficulty listening and completing tasks because they have incomplete lower brain development. It’s possible that people are uncoordinated because they have poor proprioception. It’s possible that people are tired because they are already compensating 24/7 for a brain that is not functioning as intended.

And if so, then why throw “pink slime” at them? Yet, that’s what we do when we frame people with negatively charged words.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that a mere choice of words—pink slime—made a story on meat fillers explode.  From what I’ve read, it seems like it was something worth investigating.

Just don’t think there’s any justification for flinging “pink slime” at kids.

 

How Do Your Kids Describe Their Life?

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I was cleaning through an old cupboard when I came across a half-piece of paper written by my then seven-year-old daughter.

The paper said:

A paragraph about life!

Life is a wonderful thing.  You can dance. You can play. You can jump. You can write. You can live. Use your life!

Written by,

Callan Green

There’s a simple joy in this paragraph on life . . . that some of us may have forgotten.

She’s now 26, and guess what?

She still dances (she is always enrolled in some kind of dance class). She has a high-level position—that she loves—at a prestigious company that requires her to use her writing skills daily. And yes, she makes time to play.

So how do we keep that child-spirit alive in our kids so that it stays with them as adults?

I’d like to say I had it figured out back then, with a set plan in place. But that wouldn’t be the case. So, I’ve pondered what (by chance) created such a lasting free spirit.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • We ensured downtime so she could have time to just play.
  • We encouraged creativity and ways to express imagination, ingenuity, and originality.
  • We emphasized being curious over searching for the one “right” answer.
  • We engaged in conversations that asked her opinion on daily and world matters.
  • We honored what she already liked to do.

Those are pretty easy “doables” for any parent to adopt.

So, here’s a challenge. Ask your kids: What would you say in a paragraph about life?

If your children’s answers reflect joy and a carefree spirit . . . smile, and know they’ll take that mindset with them when they leave home.

But what if you get a different kind of answer?  Well, maybe that’s an invitation to try one or more of the above. After all, any paragraph on life can be rewritten.

 

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