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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Originally published March 7, 2008

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay.

Whenever I say the wrong thing, I think of a blanket.  I’m talking about the brand new kind from the bed and bath store that comes in a soft, clear plastic case.  I am reminded how hard it is to put the blanket back in the case, when I want to put it away during warmer times of the year.

In fact, I find it impossible to get the blanket back in the case.  There’s always some part of it hanging out.  That’s the same way it feels when I say the wrong thing.

Watching the presidential primaries blanket the country, there’s something to be learned from the candidates who work hard trying to say only the right things. The leading candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain, have their own individual styles, instructive to anyone looking for tips on how to avoid saying the wrong thing.

Recently, I thought I could use a few tips after saying the wrong thing to my husband.  My husband was questioning why he didn’t know the right location to pick-up one of our kids after sports practice – he had waited a long time in the wrong spot.

“You would know, if you ever listened to me,” I replied.  As soon as I said it, I wanted to take it back.  Like on the hottest summer night, I wanted to cram that blanket back in the case.

Irritated by my husband missing the information I’d given him, I responded without thinking, saying something I knew wasn’t true.  There was some truth in it – my husband doesn’t always seem to hear every mundane detail I give him regarding the routines of family life.  It’s only because he’s busy keeping track of details in other areas of our life.

Looking back, I try to imagine a better reply, perhaps something more along the lines of what Clinton would say.  One of her strengths is her ability to articulate specific answers to policy questions.  Following her lead, I can see myself responding to my husband in another way. “To avoid confusion in the future, I will carry out the following steps.”  Then, in great detail, I would outline a plan for him to know the precise spot for pick-up.

Or, maybe next time, I would try to be more inspirational like Obama.  “Together we can do anything,” I imagine telling my husband.  Thinking of Obama’s talent as an orator, I would attempt to give the most moving response ever.  “We can change the very fabric of parenting,” I could say.  So, we never miss a pick-up.

Of course, I could also try talking straight as McCain does.  “This is the way it’s going to work,” I envision telling my husband.  Pulling no punches, I would lay the information on the line. In the clearest manner possible, I’d make sure my husband knew where the pick-up took place.  No nagging doubts for anyone.

As I see it, there are merits to the styles of all three candidates.  By following any of their examples, I could have certainly done a better job of responding to my husband.  I plan to keep their styles in mind — maybe it will help me avoid saying the wrong thing down the road.

At the same time, I know the candidates are not so different from me. No matter how hard they try, I can count on them to occasionally say the wrong thing. They struggle with that blanket too.  Just knowing that makes me feel warm all over.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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