I thought I’d share this story with you.  I’m working program scheduling now.  If you are interested, please email me so I can get you on my calendar.

In the workshop, the girls are each given a tube of toothpaste and asked to squeeze all of the toothpaste out onto a paper plate while they say words; nice words, ugly words, angry words and sweet words that permeate their daily interactions. After the tube is empty, I ask them without much drama to “go ahead and put the toothpaste BACK into the tube”. Of course they look at me shocked, then feel the challenge and work for a bit, laughing and making a mess as they TRY to put the toothpaste back into the tube. When I see that they “get it” I stop the exercise, we clean up and review the point that once you say the words; you cannot take them back. So does that make a difference? I don’t know. I do know that I have feedback from parents telling me that their girls have come to them for the first time after an argument to apologize. So I’ll take that.

ANYWAY, I was in Wal-Mart recently, buying supplies for my “Words Count” workshop. What that means is I was pushing a cart FULL of toothpaste, small paper plates, wood sticks and hand wipes to the check out. I was waiting in one of the 4 lanes that were open in the 27 lanes that Wal-Mart has in the checkout area and things were packed. Tempers were raising and I saw a woman over with a manager just fussing about what a hurry she was in and why didn’t they open up more cashiers. The manager was saying that they were trying to do so and at that moment I saw a cashier opening up so I pushed my cart into the front of that line. The woman fussing said “oh now, watch her, she’s going to push ahead of me in line”. I was in line at that point unloading and I said “I’m not in a hurry.” She said “well I am.” I made eye contact with her as I unloaded my toothpaste and smiled. She said, very strained, “What are you a teacher or something?”. I shared that no, I ran a program after school for girls. “This particular program is about how the words we say mean something and that we should pay attention to those words and how they represent us to others.”

She then opened up that she was a foster mom. Her girls were the most challenging and that she hadn’t heard from many of them after they’d left her care at their age limit. She was in pain because of that but didn’t let it show. She spoke of how her “boys” had done well and that she knew they were “easier”. I smiled a lot and listened…and when I was done I told her to have a nice day. She wished me the same.

I thought about how we’d shared the toothpaste exercise without ever opening up a tube…and once again I’d learned to “seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Thank you Dr. Covey.

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