Monday, April 16, 2012

Communication & Pregnancy: "You look you're about to POP!"

In my research, size is one of the least appropriate comments for pregnant women. In nearly every form, questions or comments about a woman’s size (whether she is pregnant or not) are unwelcome. Let’s look at some of the questions and statements that women reported rude or simply irritating. 
“How many months are you?  Eight?  Oh, you're only six months along?  Wow.”
“Are you due any day?” or “Are you sure about your due date?”
“Are you due in the next few days” (asked at 23weeks). Or “You're only ____ far along?!”
“You look like you're going to pop.”  
“Wow you're so big!” or “You are too big.”
“WOW! You're getting HUGE!!  YOU BLEW UP!”
“Wow, you're getting fat!”  
 “Are you having twins?; You're kinda big.”
“How many shoe sizes have you gone up from the swelling? Wow you've gained a lot of water weight!”
 “How much have you gained this pregnancy?”
“You’re sooo big, you’re not having a baby, you’re having a toddler!“

Yes, all of these are actual comments reported by pregnant women. Clearly, women do not want to hear that they are big when they are pregnant. Let’s face it, we really don’t ever want to hear that we are big. Several women pointed out that if you wouldn’t comment on a woman’s non-pregnant weight, it’s also not appropriate when she is pregnant. And in case no one has told you, please let me be the first – women gain weight when they are pregnant. And some women gain a lot of weight. There are many factors that influence how much weight a woman will gain when she is pregnant and not all of those factors are how much she eats! Really, this issue is best left between a woman and her medical professional. 
Now, lest you think that size only cuts one way, let’s look at the other size-related comments that are troublesome before we analyze this size/weight issue further:
“You don't look pregnant.” Or “You are not even showing.”
“What do you have in there - a 1 lb. baby?”
“You can't possibly be due in January" or “I was that big at 6 months and you are already 8 months.”
“You still look really skinny.”
“Are you starving your baby? Shouldn’t you be bigger?”
“Why aren’t you going to gain more weight?”
“You haven’t gained enough weight. Your baby is going to be too small.”
Obviously, people are more creative with their “big” comments than they are with their “small” comments. You might be saying to yourself, “but comments about being small are a compliment!” Well, maybe to you. But not to a woman who feels very pregnant. She might want  to look pregnant. Other women report that being told they are small (read: too small) makes them nervous for the health and safety of their baby. Really! Yet, both types of comment bother many pregnant women. Some women simply said that any comment about their weight was unwelcome.
When we look at why women didn’t like these comments/questions, the reasons are many! The vast majority of women simply said weight-related or size-related comments are rude. Other women said that maybe people (society) does not realize what a healthy pregnancy look like and therefore pick on people they think have gained too much or too little weight. Other women felt like these questions about size and weight were invasive; that a woman should not be asked how much weight she gained. Again, these women feel that the information is private between her and her medical professional. One woman, whose answer encompassed several made by other women reported:
"Many so called 'questions' make me feel judged. They are not intended as questions....they are intended as statements that I should not be doing the activity in question.  It feels like the 'pregnancy police' are everywhere, watching everything I do.  People—including complete strangers-- feel that they not only have the right, but that they are in fact obligated, to question a pregnant woman's every move. Most of the questions are ones that they would never DARE ask a non-pregnant woman."

Many women reported that they know they have gained weight. They know their belly sticks “way out.” They simply don’t want or need to be told. On woman said it like this: “like you don’t feel bad enough that your body is changing and being stretched out the last thing you want is some one to comment on it.” Many women reported that being told they are big made them feel fat. One woman reported that, “I might look big or small, I don’t want people to talk about it.” 

     Overwhelmingly, that seems to be the response (or lack of response) that most pregnant women want. Most pregnant women simply don’t want people (strangers or friends) to comment on their size. 

     Did you have any idea that your simple statement could cause such anxiety in the woman? Your words have a lot of power. Lots of women reported that after such comments they had to check with their medical professional (sometimes several times) to make sure their weight gain was healthy and the baby was safe. Really, pregnancy, especially first full-term pregnancies are filled with enough uncertainty. I'm certain none of us mean to add to that uncertainty.

So, what’s the appropriate response? Ignore the woman whose belly keeps us from standing as close as we might want to for best friends? Well, if you are best friends, just ask her how she feels about size comments. Otherwise, try a general comment such as “you look great.” Now, some women will still object to that, especially if they don’t feel like they look good! But honestly, most of my respondents reported that they would rather hear a compliment that sounds like a compliment. Several women reported they want to hear they look great, even if you need to stretch the truth a bit! One woman said she really wants someone to say something nice about her, even if it is a compliment on her shirt. 
So obviously, if you think she does look fat, please don’t tell her. If you think she is gaining too much weight, let her medical professional deal with that. It’s not your job. So, just smile sweetly, tell her she looks great, and move on to other topics.

Happy Communicating~

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Post Series: Communication & Pregnancy

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was on the receiving end of LOTS of comments and questions that were totally inappropriate! After doing some research, I discovered I was not alone. I conducted formal research and compiled my results into a book. For the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from my book to share about communication with pregnant women. Does this necessitate a special type of communication? I argue that it does. For some reason, when people see a pregnant woman, they typically forget social protocol and say the most amazingly shocking things! 

Before we get started, though, I should outline my communication approach. If you've been reading for any length of time, you know that understanding someone's perspective helps you to understand what they are really trying to say. Without further ado...

For some communication researchers, talking with other people is often more successful for both parties if the person talking considers the listener when making the message. Sounds a bit complicated, right? Not really! All this means is that I need to think about the other person and how they will interpret what I am saying when I talk to them. 

For instance, if I want my husband to help get our son to bed so I can clean up the kitchen and relax with him earlier tonight, it would not be in our best interests to approach him with “you never do anything. Take care of your son so I can finally relax.” Nope. He’d get to the second word and hear “you’re a terrible husband. Nothing you can do will ever please me. It’s all about me, me, me.” That’s the best case scenario. He might just hear “blah, blah, blah.” Both interpretations are bad because not only is he unlikely to help me, but either interpretation hurts our marriage. That’s no way for me to get help! Instead, I should be honest and think of what he will hear in my message. So, for my husband, this would work better: “Honey, I’d really like to relax with you. Would you mind putting RJ to bed so that I can clean the kitchen and we can both sit down together?” Now I have considered how he will interpret my comments and phrased my message in a way that is honest (tells my intentions and motivations) and also appeals to his needs. Success!

How does this influence communicating with pregnant women? Taking a receiver approach to communication means that we try to communicate in a way that will be best received while still getting our point across. So, if we feel compelled to comment on a woman’s pregnancy, we should probably do it in a way that does not offend her – especially if we want her to talk to us again! In each post, I’ll cover questions and statements that pregnant women find objectionable, and offer some suggestions for a more receiver-oriented way to phrase things. Put your own spin on it, though. Make them yours. Just remember – it’s not all about what you want to say; you also need to consider her feelings and where she is in her life. 

Happy Communicating!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Review

Hi Friends,
I read two fantastic books recently - both in the Chicken Soup for the Soul line. The first is Find Your Happiness and the second is Food and Love. Anyone who knows me knows the Food and Love is my favorite! Any book that features food and relationships ranks high on my list.

Check out my review at Jamie's Precious Peas.

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Love the Messenger, Hate the Message

So, first, please allow me to say it's good to be back!

As you may know, I'm reasonably active in my son's school and spring is always the busiest time of year there. I am also teaching a great course at UCF. And writing product reviews. And I'm interviewing for another teaching job for summer/fall. And I started my own business this spring. And, of course, there's my family and house. LOL

Today I was listening to a wonderful motivational CD and heard a quote that I really want to share with you: "You can love the messenger, but still hate the message." Linda Toupin, National Sales Director for Mary Kay says this about the messages we may receive from our families.

We all want to be inspiring, uplifting parents. You know the ones - they say "good job, Junior" and "you can do anything you set your mind to, Sister." Yet, we are human. Sometimes we say things like "why can't you do things right?" or "That's not good enough." Ouch.

As we age all the comments fill us up - for better or worse. Then as adults, we sometimes don't reject those messages because we really do love the person who said them - the messenger. Yet, as Linda Toupin reminded me today, it's totally possible to say "that message doesn't work for me" while still saying "I love my Mom."

Are there messages from your past that you need to reject? The Bible says that God made us in His image. If that's so, then we are made just right. We can reject the messages that say anything else.

Happy Communicating~

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Handling Conflict

Sorry that I've been gone a while! I recently added several hats to my repertoire and I'm still working on finding balance. I'll continue to write as I can, though, and hope you find the info helpful.

This week in my class we discussed conflict. Not a happy topic, but one with which we can all relate.
Here are some short and sweet tips we discussed:

How to handle conflict
managing conflict: dysfunctional strategies:
do not say “we need to communicate more” or  “cooperate more”
do not blame the other person
do not attack the other person
do not be too general (specificity provides a starting point)
do not avoid conflict
do not try to keep people talking so long that they give up (people will vote ‘yes’ just to resolve the conflict)
managing conflict: functional strategies:
identify your problem and desires
express disagreement tactfully
listen actively (paraphrase, ask questions, focus on what they are saying instead of what YOU want to say)
persuade others of the value of conflict
develop trust
don’t take disagreement personal rejection
demonstrate cooperativeness if your suggestion is rejected

These strategies can be used in families, friendship, and business relationships. Try to remember that generally speaking we are on the same team. Try to take your focus off YOURSELF and focus on a common goal - solving the problem. 

Happy Communicating!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Welcome UCF students!

For my steady readers, you should probably know that I'm teaching a business and professional communication class at the University of Central Florida. I love teaching and being in the classroom is very energizing.

Welcome to my students! As we discussed in class tonight, research shows that people who are satisfied with their family life make better employees. They come to work ready to go, don't spend all day at the coffee pot moaning about how bad things are, then go home to be with family. You can enhance your work life by learning the skills, tips, and research presented here.

I hope you have a chance to look around and enjoy a bit.
More posts in a day or so!

Happy Communicating~
Andrea / Dr. Scott :-)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Getting Kids to Play Alone Together

Well, I found it. And I'm positive that if you have children, you have discovered the solution to getting your kids to play alone together, too. And I mean, quiet, focused, in-their-bedroom kind of play.

All I had to say was, "It's time to pack up Christmas."

Now, I have to admit, my older boy did well with the tasks I gave him. The younger one...well...not so much!

As soon as we were to a grown-up-only point, I sent the kids to their bedroom. I've never seen them scurry so fast! And then ~ golden silence! :-)

I did manage to get a lot done. And my boys played well together. While they didn't get as much of a cleaning lesson, they did learn they can play well together. And perhaps for now that's enough of a lesson.

Happy Communicating!
~ Andrea