Why I Don’t Take Offense When People Tell Me I Have My Hands Full

By Brett Baker, Core Writer

In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown quotes her husband as saying, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

Assuming the best in people and assuming that people are doing their best often feels like the same thing to me.

I used to get so irritated when someone would critique my child’s clothing— “He isn’t wearing SOCKS?!”
Or their names –”You named a GIRL Owen?!”
And then there’s the age-old platitude “My, my! You have your hands full!”
I’d smile (outwardly) and carry on with my day, but internally I was tucking away the bitterness, silently judging them for their audacity to put their nose in my business.

Over the years, though, and especially after reading Brown’s book, I found myself wanting to remain curious about people’s comments, instead of reacting in offense.

I’ve tried to make curiosity a habit.

Why did they want to tell me I have my hands full?

The more curious I became, the less judgment crept in. I found myself realizing that these strangers weren’t out to get me. I’ve almost always found that the majority of the comments came from older folks. They were probably just trying to make conversation. They probably miss the days when their own kids were young. They might have even been trying to encourage me!

Imagine if I took, “My, my! You have your hands full!” as “Wow, you’ve got a lot going on, and you’re doing a great job,” instead of “You have too many kids.”

When I started replacing curiosity with negative assumptions, my world became more peaceful and more kind. Nothing changed except my decision to assume the best.

Mamas, sometimes it’s HARD not to take strangers’ comments personally. And sometimes they are blatantly crossing a line. But what if we could assume that those small comments were an attempt to engage? Imagine how much energy we could save by just carrying on with picking out our produce or getting our car washed.

I had the chance to practice my preaching yesterday at the grocery store when an older man made sure to tell me not to let my daughter put her hand in the lobster tank with a tone that sounded a little too high-and-mighty for my taste.

My defenses bubbled up, then my curiosity took over.

What if he truly just didn’t want my daughter’s finger chopped off? That’s a good thing, right?

And so I engaged him. I asked him if he had kids. He did. They were older. He has grandchildren now, around her age, he’d assume. The interaction ended with “Have a nice day,” and everyone walked away feeling respected.

And with all fingers—and my inner peace—intact.

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