On this sunny Sunday morning, I went down to my favourite cafe for a takeout latte. While waiting for it to get made in my travel mug, I smiled at a young couple with 2 small boys. The littlest, maybe 3 years old, outstretched his arms to his rather tall daddy, "Up, up, I waaaannnnt UP!"
The dad had no sooner scooped him up and held him to his chest than the bigger brother, about 6 years old said, "Me too. I want up." Ah, so cute. And predictable. I was curious about what would happen next.
The dad said, "You want double lift?"
"Un hunh. Double lift" the boy nodded.
Up he went. Two boys held aloft by their daddy warmed my heart. Their mom touched the pant leg of the dad, and the 4 of them left the cafe together.
A minute later, my latte ready, I pivoted to follow them back out into the sunshine on Main St.
I saw/heard the adorable 6 year old boy scream and break into sobs, then bury his sobbing face in his hands.
"What's wrong?!" the startled mom asked as she bent over to see to his distress.
With his lungs fully loaded with all the pain of the universe in them he wailed, "You yelled at me!"
Then burst back into tears.
Hearing his simple declaration gutted me. It echoed in my heart, "You yelled at me."
He felt completely wounded and violated by his parent yelling at him. "You yelled at me."
Where is the love in that? What's the justification?
His dad crouched down to calmly offer an explanation, "What you said was not kind."
I didn't stick around to see what happened next, as I was crying. All I could notice was my brain replaying the boy's agonized delivery of, "You yelled at me!" I felt his sense of betrayal.
I slid into the driver's seat of my nearby parked car and sobbed. His simple words hit some truth in my being too.
Had I been yelled at as a child more than I remembered? Why the big reaction? I scrolled through my sense of history for an answer.
Then I thought about a coaching client whose President had just yelled at the CFO and SVP and how wounded they both were.
"We're all broken children inside." I thought. Why aren't we more gentle with each other?"
I yearn for more gentleness and compassion in how we handle each other. I crave more careful communication and gently truthful exchanges with each other.
A podcast I heard on negotiating with terrorists said that when you are talking with those who are really upset, you've got to go gentle and calm inside yourself. "It can be helpful to act as if you are talking with a small child." said the expert. "They need to feel heard."
This little boy will be my go-to soul when I need to conjure up more stillness and care inside myself when coaching others so that I can be most care-full.
His breaking heart ripped through me as if he'd been my own boy. As if he'd been me when I was small. "You yelled at me."