Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Raisin consciousness

I was talking back to a box of raisins this morning at breakfast.

No, don't go packing me off to a therapist yet (never mind that I *am* a therapist). These raisins and I have had a relationship going back for years. In fact, I blogged about it previously. For years, Sun-Maid Raisins has put motivational or inspirational sayings on the flaps of their little raisin boxes. Usually good advice about things like smiling more often, or the occasional raisin-centric plug. For a long time, I've enjoyed starting my day seeing what the raisins have to tell me.

I wasn't too happy with the raisins today, however. And there is a good life lesson on communication here that is worth sharing with all of you: when you cross the line from being supportive to telling people what to do, you start getting yourself in trouble.

Today, the raisin box said, "Pick up what you tripped over, so no one else does!" Including the exclamation point. My first reaction? I don't take orders from a box of raisins. And I certainly didn't ask them to be my mother. Their job is (a) to get sprinkled on my oatmeal and eaten, and (b) perhaps to make me smile and feel good. Anything else is shoving their oar in, even if they are a bunch of dried grapes.

A little later, I sat down and examined this reaction. After all, I am one of the most responsible people I know. I'm a mature adult approaching retirement age. I probably would pick up something I tripped over. So if this bothered *me*, how would other people react?

And that is exactly my point. Too many of us - including me sometimes - act like the raisins. We try to correct people. We try to "help" them. We give them advice. We show them the error of their ways. And then we wonder why they never listen to us.

I know the raisins mean well. But in my view, there is only one truly effective way of motivating people: Listen to them. "Get" them. Cheer them on. Understand and empathize with their struggles. And then, if you absolutely must give them advice, do it gently as an equal. Whether you are a person or a box of dried fruit.