One time, I needed “instant vanilla pudding” for a recipe. He came home with a package of four 4-ounce containers of ready-made vanilla pudding. When I pointed out that I had hoped to receive a four-serving size box of powdered instant vanilla pudding, he commented, “How much more instant can you get than the stuff you open and eat?”
When I wrote, “Kleenex” on the list, my son tried to convince my husband that I always purchase a store brand of facial tissue, even though I refer to it by the more popular brand name. But they came home with the more expensive Kleenex tissue because my husband didn’t want to get the “wrong” item.
When I write “toilet paper” on the list, I know my husband will come home with his favorite brand, even though it may not be the best value or the brand that I prefer—that’s one area where he doesn’t like to conform or compromise.
Recently, I tried being more specific, and wrote, “Minute Maid, $2.50” on the list. Both Steve and my son spent time in the powdered beverage aisle looking for a lemonade mix, finally calling me to discover that I meant the sale-priced ready-made orange juice in the refrigerated section.
Getting the groceries is a great way for my husband to contribute to our family. And it saves me valuable time each week, freeing up my schedule to spend time with our four kids, to prepare dinner, or to work on my own employment-related activities.
But the scenarios I’ve listed above (in addition to exposing a common source of humor in human relationships) are an indication of a very important social truth: We all start out with very unique perspectives, something I call “MY CONTEXT”—the basis of The Social Response Pyramid™, the teaching tool I’ve developed. When I write the grocery list, I have my own ideas about the brands I like, ways to save money, plans I have for future meals, etc. When Steve purchases the groceries, not only is he missing much of the information I used to generate the list, but he also brings his own unique “CONTEXT” to the task, with his own ideas about preferences, needs, and expectations.
While unique personal CONTEXTS can cause miscommunication and frustration, they can also drive us to implement more effective strategies for being successful. I’m learning to be more specific when I generate my grocery list, and I take a few minutes to discuss the list with Steve before he leaves for the store. He is learning to ask questions, either while he’s first looking at the list, or when he is searching for an item in the store. We’re both learning to express appreciation to the other for the ways we contribute to the family; even if they’re not done exactly the way the other person would do them. And we’re learning to laugh at the ways our unique CONTEXTS contribute to keeping our lives from becoming too dull.
Here’s my “Social Incite” for the week. We all approach life through our own very unique perspective. We can learn to understand and appreciate all CONTEXTS (our own and others’), and develop and implement strategies for being successful!