Want to Communicate Better? Use Stories

Years ago my mid-teen aged step-daughter moved in with us.  When her birthday rolled around I wanted to make it special for her and among other things, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she’d like me to order.  I asked what kind of frosting, what kind of decorations and what colors she wanted on her cake.  On her birthday, we celebrated with family and the special cake and I felt very good about the whole event.

Fast forward a couple of years, and more birthday cakes chosen with her preferences.  In a convoluted conversation one day, I heard something that made me wonder if I’d hurt her feelings.  Upon questioning, I learned that she felt hurt that I never made her a birthday cake that instead I just always went to the store and bought one.  MAKE her a cake?  In my family, having a store bought cake was a BIG DEAL!  My siblings and I looked forward to picking out our own decorations, flavors and colors with much anticipation.  I explained this to my step-daughter and told her we never wanted my mom to make our birthday cake.  I then asked her to tell me her story about birthdays and cakes.  For her, making the cake was a very special mom/daughter time and picking out the kind of cake and then helping to make it, especially licking the beaters (of course!) was what made her birthday special.

Wow.  The power of stories.  I asked why she hadn’t shared this with me earlier and she said she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.  In the meantime, she was hurting because she thought I didn’t care enough about her to take the time and make her a cake. Read more