I’ll be honest - I really searched for a way to get Halloween into this blog post but I just couldn’t make it work. So instead I found three quotes on relationships that can be applied to the goals and focus of this program when it comes to relationships.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Carl W. Buechner
When I first read this quote, I immediately thought of the impact our adult supporters have on the students. However, this quote goes deeper than that. It’s a valuable way to think of all our relationships. Granted, there are times when it is very important to listen and be able to recall things that are said to you. As a person who finds delight in words, I would never think to undermine their value. But this quote makes me think about the muscle memory our feelings have. Just like a certain scent or sound can transport you to a memory, the behaviors of people around you can have the same effect. If we consider how our actions and words might affect another person, we can ensure our impact is positive and meaningful in some way. This is a requirement of anyone hired by the program. It is something we trust our employers to do. And it is a practice we try to teach our student participants. Words are powerful. There’s no denying that. But if I can leave a positive emotional impact on those around me, then I’m okay with them not being able to recall exactly what words I used to accomplish that goal.
“We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers instead of critics.” ~Joyce Meyer
I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to quiet the inner critic. Our brains are wired to analyze and judge our surroundings. It’s a survival tactic. What’s a threat? What isn’t? I think sometimes we forget that the critic shouldn’t be carried into every encounter anymore. As with the first quote, I want to be clear that I don’t mean to assert we should never be critics. But I do believe the “tough love” approach is more prevalent than it should be these days. Encouragement can be more effective than we realize. In many ways, encouraging another person is - at the most basic level - a way of letting that person know he or she is seen. The feeling of being overlooked is not limited to teenagers. That anxiety can be felt at any age, and the effects can have a variety of negative results. If we can begin to approach others with encouragement before critique, the outcomes are likely to exceed our expectations. This quote is particularly apt for our staff members and employers, but it can certainly benefit our students as well. I think sometimes students are quick to critique opportunities presented to them. Is this lame? Is it a waste of time? Is this person trustworthy? If we can all learn to begin with authentic encouragement, I think we can win out over some of these critical concerns.
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” ~Henry Winkler
This might be my favorite of the three. It helps that this quote comes from the Fonz. But I like the clear imagery it evokes and the easy practical application. Termites eat away at the foundations of strong things - trees, houses...Okay mostly those two things. But they are a serious threat to those things. It’s important to note that the word “termite” is used in its plural form. One termite is maybe less threatening than a clan. However, if you find one you can generally bet the others are nearby. Making one false assumption might not topple a relationship on its own, but my experience is that assumptions are a little like potato chips. You can’t have just one. It will become a habit if we don’t learn self-awareness. This is the quote that speaks best to all of our participants. Sometimes students feel their value isn’t always recognized by adults. I think as adults we sometimes make assumptions about the potential of students based on our perceptions. That can be positive, but more often it’s a detriment to the students. On the other side, I remember as a teenager making assumptions about what others thought about me and altering my behavior based on those assumptions. Sometimes this was good, but if I assumed someone didn’t like me, my response was to withdraw. I tried to become less visible to that person. In critical formative years, the response of withdrawing from social interactions can significantly affect a teenager’s development of the social-emotional skills that will later be important for things like interviewing and joining the workforce. I believe this quote, with it’s imagery of scary foundation-devouring insects, can be very helpful to carry with us into our relationships. Instead of assumptions, lean into questions. Questions and curiosity will always lead away from the assumption termites. That whole “Curiosity killed the cat” quote is a myth. Ignore that one. Or maybe change it to “Ignorant curiosity with no respect for potential danger killed the cat.” But regular curiosity is the key to building and strengthening relationships. And ridding of us hungry relationship termites.