Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

One morning not too long ago, I was encouraging my 3-year old daughter to get dressed for school. As it happened, it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day so I had gotten her a themed t-shirt to wear, though quickly it became apparent that I had gotten it all wrong. The shirt was white with a green shamrock on it, when clearly she needed an all green t-shirt! This offense pitched her into a fit of epic proportions, declaring she didn’t want to get dressed in anything and, in fact, did not want to go to school at all. Trying to keep our day moving, I assured her that she could pick out anything she wanted to wear to school, but the pain of the Wrong T-Shirt was so damaging that she just increased her cries of injustice. Impatient, I pulled every green thing she owns out of her drawers. She declared all of them wrong.   I picked out some of her non-green favorites. Wrong. Her pitch increased with my every (wrong) move. Her tearful, fearful, woeful wails reached their tipping point when I once again cried out for her to put anything on!… anything at all!… just choose something already! and she finally sobbed “I don’t know what to choose!” I stopped in my tracks, realizing that my frustration with her inability to make a choice was rendering her completely incapable of forward movement. In that moment I just scooped her up in my arms: her trying to catch her breath and me marveling at the power of energy. After we both were calm and the room was quiet, I asked her if she might be ready to get dressed.  She picked out a spectacularly mismatched outfit, and we packed the Offending St. Patrick’s Day T-Shirt in her school backpack “just in case” she might decide to wear it later (she did).

On another recent night, she was watching a show before bedtime and asked me a question about something that was happening. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: Mom, why is the puppy scared?

Me: I think because he’s up high

Her: A pie?

Me: Yeah, up high

Her: Why does he have a pie?  What kind of pie?

Me: (after a moment of confused silence) OH! Not ‘A Pie,’ ‘Up High’ – Up. High.!

Her: (after a moment of confused silence) OH!

Me: Wow, those do sound exactly alike, don’t they?

All of this has gotten me thinking about how often we believe we are communicating something when in fact we aren’t at all. What we say can sometimes be so different from what people hear or how they hear it. Or (back to the T-Shirt Episode), the energy we project can overpower the words we say.

What are the messages that you are sending?

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.