I was chatting with a client this morning when she reported that her 8-year old son was frustrated at school and calling himself “stupid.” She was sad and not sure how to help him realize that he is anything but. We discussed several different approaches and came up with a plan, and then I remembered something my husband said to me once when I was feeling not pretty enough, not capable enough, and not (fill-in-the blank) enough.
He said: “Don’t talk about my wife that way. My wife is beautiful, and capable, and amazing, and I won’t let you badmouth her that way.”
Wow. Talk about a statement that can stop you in your tracks. What an incredible re-frame.
Had he said, “Please don’t talk about yourself that way, you’re great!” I think his words might have wrung hollow and gotten lost in the noise. But by referring to me in the third person, he cleverly reminded me that I would never talk about someone else like that; and jolted me into realizing I probably shouldn’t talk about myself like that either.
Remembering that ah-hah moment, I suggested that my client this morning try this approach with her son and say to him, “Please don’t talk about my son like that. My son is smart and kind and funny and so many other amazing things and I can’t let you be so mean to him.”
Will it change everything in a minute? Probably not—surely this kiddo needs some additional support stepping into his own power and recognizing that mistakes are opportunities to learn. But might it make him stop and think for a moment? Might it help make the dialogue in his head just a little more gentle? I hope so.
A similar issue came up again this afternoon when I was texting with a friend who knows the story. She was lamenting some struggles she was having running her business and had all sorts of negative self-talk happening. In response, I texted, “Please don’t talk about my friend that way. I love her and respect her and it hurts my heart to hear you badmouth her like that.”
Her response? “Your husband is a freaking genius.”
Yup, that pretty much sums it up. What a gift my husband gave me in that re-frame.
How might this re-frame be helpful for you? How could you use this with your child, spouse or a friend—or better yet yourself?
Email me with your stories of how this works for you or share them in the comments below—I’d love to hear them! I can be found at email@example.com