Screaming for creative problem solving

screaming for creativitySomewhere down the road from me there is a woman who screams at her children every morning before they leave for school. For reasons unknown, they are never ready on time and seem to perpetually neglect the need to brush their teeth. So, like clockwork, we are blessed with the screeching alarm of a frustrated mother yelling “Do you teeth, NOW!” with the admonition “I will not be late for work because of you!” This morning, like always, such yelling did not appear to have the desired effect, as ten minutes passed and she was still shouting for the same thing. One of the children started crying, and a few extra phrases were thrown into her usual mix – “Shut up!” and “No, you should say sorry to me!”

It would appear that the very thing she’d hoped would spur these disobedient children along had actually made her more late than ever.

Day in, day out, this lady repeats a ritual of shouting with similar ineffective results. And we are left wondering why she doesn’t try something different, when what she is doing clearly isn’t working. There are a number of reasons we can suppose – she’s angry and doesn’t consider this barking of instructions a process of problem-solving, it’s just a natural reaction; she believes the children need a stern talking to, to affirm that she’s in charge; she simply thinks the louder the shout the more likely a response. Whatever the reasoning, though, the real problem is that she doesn’t recognise that what she’s doing isn’t working. At no point is she sitting back and thinking maybe there is a better way.

If she is not questioning the effectiveness of her actions, then she must believe the problem is coming from an external source – disobedient children (the proof of which comes from her telling them they are the ones who should be apologising). Yet not questioning the effectiveness of your actions presupposes that what you are doing is working. Mixed with the stubbornness of believing you know best. No one wants to be told how to raise their own children, after all.

It would be a blessing if, even just for a moment, she would interact with her children in a more considered way, to get to the root of why they are not brushing their teeth in a timely manner. Then she might come to understand that being heard, even being heard loudly, is not the same as being listened to.

Why does it matter here? Because I feel the same thing hearing this poor mother’s screaming that I do whenever I trawl through Twitter feeds and blog posts that say the same few things, over and over again, hoping to hook in another would-be reader or mailing list subscriber. Tricks fishing for clicks, and haphazardly rehashed ideas that show no consideration for or connection to the reader, just idle shouting into a void. The same white noise of this woman shouting at her children.

And I’m left asking myself why do you think that will work? And isn’t it time you tried something different? And, in a less generous mood, we’d all be happier if you said nothing at all.

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