Faces on bananas and an icy breeze

Dr Erin Bowe psychologist

November 23, 2021

I’m starting with the whimsy this week:

The other day my daughter’s kindergarten teacher said to me “we all loved your banana”

“err…excuse me…?”

I totally forgot I drew a silly face on her banana. A gesture that took me 20 seconds apparently caused great delight in the kinder class and everyone got excited about eating their fruit.

“It’s the little things that count” I said, shrugging and smiling under my mask.

“It really does count. That little gesture was so appreciated by all of us here”

It got me thinking about love languages and the little things we can do to make people more comfortable.

Whenever a client would come into my consulting rooms (which feels like a lifetime ago) I’d make a point of asking “is there anything in the room I can change to make you more comfortable?” then, in the coming sessions I’d keep asking and watching. Like the barista who knows your coffee order and writes funny saying on the café chalkboard.

It really is all the little things.

For example, there are some clients (kids and adults) who NEED to fidget. As soon as they’d sit down, I’d hand them a fidget toy, loom bands, a soft toy or whatever I knew would help them smile and drop their shoulders a little.

I watched many, many grown men smile with delight at my Darth Tater toy (Mr Potato head dressed as Darth Vader). They’d take a picture or ask where I bought it, but not actually allow themselves to play with it.

One of the saddest parts of adulthood is watching grown ups who either don’t now how to play or won’t allow themselves to.

In asking about what would make people comfortable, I’ve had some massive breakthroughs as a therapist. Small changes that were easy for me to do made enormous impact on clients’ comfort. Such as:

Someone with PTSD from a repeated incidents of being trapped in a hot, stuffy space was most comfortable when the consulting room was icy cold and the air con was blasting. When I asked later about one of their biggest takeaways from sessions they said it was that they never had to ask or apologise for their need to have the room cold.

A client who (let’s say for example) was really triggered by the colour purple – the same colour as the branding of the hospital where they had a traumatic birth. A tiny change, like me not wearing that colour made a HUGE difference to her comfort.

My own breastfeeding consultant, Amberley from Maternal Instincts 
used to send me voice messages everyday in the first few weeks of trying to learn to breastfeed. She knew how fiddley and awkward it would be to try to read text message instructions while wrestling a hungry baby. I also suspected she knew I wouldn’t reach out to phone her so she just left a message there waiting or me when I needed it. Sometimes it was reminders about positioning, other times it was just words of encouragement. It made such a huge difference compared to my previous experience of heading off to a lactation clinic and then having 3 pages of notes to study (and forget) when I got home.

Things that don’t matter all that much to us can mean the world to someone else if only we stop to notice.

Case in point – this past week it was my wedding anniversary and my two kids’ birthdays (and, yes, that is crazy, I’m still recovering!) my mum sent me an express package with no less than 5 cards: an anniversary card, a birthday card from her and dad for each of the kids and another separate card each for them on behalf of my brother who lives with them.

My first reaction? “who still sends cards?” and “Mum, should get shares in Hallmark”. It’s really not super important to me to receive a card for an occasion, but it is to my mother. Written words of affirmation and sending a card is one of the ways she likes to give and receive love.

This week, as people’s stress tends to jump up another level, ask yourself what is your client’s love language? What’s a small change in the environment that would make them smile or relax just a little more, knowing they feel seen and cared for? 

Mum as You Are

Episode 21 is about something I think the Netflix show Maid got wrong. It involves something my mentoring client L, reminded me of a few weeks ago. If you work with parents, or are a parent and have never learned about ‘shark music’ have them listen to this episode.

You can listen to the episode HERE

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