And the reality was that he seemed to have a point. “Jeff” often sees what others don’t, thinks creatively, and is a pretty good problem-solver. It would have been nice if his teacher could have looked past his un-charming style and seen that his contributions were accurate and useful. But my guess is that his impatience, outsize gestures, eye rolls, and general stance were somewhat alienating, to put it mildly!
As you might have guessed, the reason “Jeff” was seeing me was to get help with his anger and with his communication style. One thing we both figured out was that Jeff’s style of problem solving was a little different and that “different” often turns off some folks. And that, if he really wanted to be heard, “Jeff” was going to need to figure out how to translate his wisdom into words and body language that others could understand.
All his life, “Jeff” had been considered to be the difficult child – in school and at home. He’d been the one who had to be calmed down, silenced when his creative ideas were more than his peers (and teachers) could manage, and the one who started building up an intense anger that he was forbidden to express. And he thought this would never change – until a caring family friend convinced him to get some help.
It was quite a while before “Jeff” got up the courage to call me. But, when he finally made that call, he was ready to try something different. Over time, “Jeff” learned how to self-monitor, when his anxiety threatened to take charge. He learned the words to say that would actually help him be heard, help him get his needs met. And, he discovered the (for him!) startling notion that most people are put off when faced with all that outsized body language.
Sometimes, the challenge stares us right in the face! It was clear that “Jeff” had never learned that how he used his body could be even more important than how he used his words.
And – sometimes it just takes that “someone else,” that friend, boss, teacher, family member to instill a realization that change is possible. And to point out that we don’t have to do it alone, and help is possible. What a shame it would have been for “Jeff,” if that friend hadn’t stepped in to give that extra push.