I clicked on the link of Susan Werner’s YouTube video, “Hazy Winter,” and went back to cooking my fish. I listened to the piano introduction, intrigued when the deep voice of a cello entered and the tempo changed. “Time, time, time,” Susan began to sing.
I put down the spatula to take a closer look at the screen. This was Susan Werner? How had I never heard this woman’s voice before? If her voice were a food, it would be chocolate mousse. Sweet, rich, firm, decadent. I emailed my response to the invitation I received.
“Yes, yes, yes,” I typed. “I look forward to going to this concert with you! Grateful that it is only a few weeks away!”
I looked at my daughter. An hour ago, I had shared an offer someone had made for her benefit and growth. She had shaken her head and politely told me no before knowing any of the details.
“Sweets, I want to make a radical request of you. Are you up for that?”
“Uh, sure, I guess,” she said, with a half-smile that let me know it was okay to continue.
“Here’s the deal. I don’t mind, when you are talking with me, if you answer, “No way!” before you know what I’m talking about. Okay, maybe I mind a little, but it’s okay. I know your body has a finely tuned, really sensitive alarm system. It works overtime to keep you safe. When you say, “No way!” before you know much about a situation, I know it’s your brain and body working really hard to keep you safe. My radical request isn’t about that.
“My radical request is about when you leave these four walls, or the comfort of our car, and are hanging out with people who are not your dad or me. When you are in those situations and you are presented with new information that makes your brain say, ‘NO WAY!’ I would like to request that what actually comes out of your mouth is, ‘Hmmm….let me think about that.'”
She was still in the conversation, taking in everything. “You know that song I just played? When I first received the invitation to go hear that woman sing in a few weeks, my own safety system sent up several versions of ‘No way’: ‘The tickets are expensive; I’ve never heard of this woman before; I don’t know if I’m free that night; Do I know and like the other people who are going?’ Yet, because I know how my alarm system works, I just answered, ‘Let me check my schedule and think about that.’
“Now that I’ve heard the YouTube clip, my whole perspective has changed. The tickets seem like a great price for an evening of fantastic music. I’ve cleared my schedule, and it doesn’t really matter to me who chooses to go. If I had shared all my initial ‘No ways’ with the person who invited me, though, I might have shut down an opportunity to hear Susan Werner sing–in person!
“The ‘No Way’ thing is great for keeping us safe, but it also keeps our world very, very small. When we train ourselves to say, ‘Hmmm…let me think about that,’ we buy ourselves some time. With time, we can collect information and even figure out how to deactivate our alarm system if it is something we actually want to do!”
Then I thought of the many situations in which I do want my kids to say, “No way!” in the moment, without pausing to collect additional information or question themselves in anyway. I looked at my daughter again. How do people who live with finely tuned alarm systems recognize the difference between real and perceived threats to safety and well-being? How do people with less sensitive alarm systems discern the difference?
Next week’s blog, “How Do You Know the Difference?” is Part 2 of this conversation.
Click here to enjoy Susan Werner’s Hazy Shade of Winter