I read a book, MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, which does a good job of illuminating one’s perceptions of the communication obstacles between men and women. At least, I thought they meant men and women, so you can imagine my surprise when I encountered two six year olds engaged in similar communication difficulties.
A group of children were sitting in a circle, playing a game whereby balls are rolled into the center of the circle with the intent of making contact with one of several children in the circle. One of those, “You’re out!” kind of games.
Suddenly, Andrea was sobbing. No other child seemed to be aware of a problem. I approached her and asked what was wrong. Through her sobs, she communicated that Michael had been the recipient of the ball twice and had not given it to her for a turn. Failing to see a problem with this, I asked Michael to come over and talk with us. Andrea, still sobbing, repeated her perception of the problem. Michael responded kindly, “Well, just cause the ball comes to me more than once doesn’t mean that I have to give it to you.” Andrea was not appeased. His apparent logic seemed to distress her even more. I decided to clarify rules with them, pointing out that there was no set number of turns that an individual could have, but also adding that if Michael wanted to give Andrea a turn, that would be very thoughtful. Andrea’s emotional expressions continued. Clearly our attempts at communication did not do the trick. Finally, I said, “Michael, I think Andrea understands the rules and all, but I think she would like us to acknowledge that her feelings were hurt when you did not think to give her the ball.”
Andrea nodded, her tears subsided. Michael looked at her blankly. This was one of those “I don’t get it, but ok” looks. Michael said, “I’m sorry that you felt badly, Andrea.” Andrea said, “Thank you,” her tears dried instantly, and she smiled simultaneously. When Michael turned and walked away, it was clear that he was confused. He shook his head and quietly muttered, “I just don’t get it.”