Getting Big Girl Results: We Can Learn From How Kids View & React to the World
I was recently watching the movie “Coraline” with my daughter, again. We’ve viewed this movie so many times; I've considered sewing a pair of buttons over my own eyes. (In the film, Coraline is lured into an alternate world where they sew buttons over eyes. I’m not a total nutter.)
My daughter, on the other hand, is totally engrossed — as if she’s watching the movie for the very first time. At some parts, she notices things she hadn’t paid attention to before — and at other parts, she is thrilled to be able to foresee the ending.
“I knew it, Mommy! I told you that would happen!”
I find it fascinating. Then again, that’s precisely how we learn, isn’t it? Through repetition and predicted outcomes. As adults, we tend to think we know all there is to know about a situation we’ve already experienced. But, what if we gave ourselves the opportunity to see what we hadn’t noticed before?
This got me thinking — us “grown-ups” could learn a thing or two from the way our kids view and react to the world. Below are just three examples of childish behaviors, that when applied to daily adulting, translate to a better way of living and working.
1. Pipe Up
Kids know what they want; when they want it; and how they want it delivered. My daughter, Piper, will pitch a fit if what she wants is not readily available. While I do not appreciate her means, I applaud her for never settling for less than what she wants or believes she deserves.
Ladies, if we want the pink cup, then damn it, we should demand the pink cup. Want more money? Respect? Equal opportunity? It is ours for the taking. Let's be clear about what we want and stop taking no for an answer.
Of course, as women in today’s workplace, our communication techniques are judged much more critically than that of our male colleagues. While we have every right to be strong, confident and capable women, we do so at the risk of being labeled aggressive, abrasive or — dare I say — bitchy.
Step one to breaking away from these stereotypes is to stop worrying about these stereotypes.
We hold ourselves back when we fear how we will be perceived. Piper certainly doesn’t concern herself with how I might view her tantrum — as long as she gets that cup.
#AdultingTip: Avoid throwing yourself on the floor, kicking and screaming in hopes the boss will eventually break and give you what you want. Instead, make your desires known confidently and assuredly. Think through what you will say, communicate clearly and assert yourself when challenged. As long as you maintain reasonable expectations and a healthy level of objectivity, you’re golden.
2. Be honest. Brutally honest.
Ok, we’ve all heard the phrase, “kids say the darndest things.” Face it: kids have absolutely no filter.
This past weekend my son Dexter was hanging with me while I got dressed and ready for the day. We had quite the memorable conversation — it went exactly like this:
Dexter: “Mommy, are you going to put makeup on next?”
Me: “Nah, it's Saturday.”
Dexter: “Oh, are people supposed to be ugly on Saturday?”
And just like that, Saturday became a full makeup kind of day.
Of course, in business, we may want to be a little kinder in our delivery, but sharing our honest opinions with colleagues and clients can be a great motivator for taking action and fostering change.
In business as a whole, I’ve noticed a trend in the application of honesty as a marketing tool. Companies are no longer claiming they do it all (except maybe Amazon, but that’s because they actually do it all). Instead, they are coming right out and explicitly defining what they do well, and what they don’t. This veracity builds trust, which is a crucial factor to thriving in business.
#AdultingTip: Before you go painting the town with all your brutal honesty — remember, grown-ups aren’t as adorable as our miniature complements. The last thing you want is your constructive criticism to backfire and deteriorate team performance. Instead, speak the truth in a kind and encouraging manner, and remember — owning your truth is often more productive than pointing out someone else’s.
3. Be infinitely curious
Whether you are a parent or not, at some point in your existence, you have gotten caught in the endless loop of “why” with a child. It’s as if they are on a quest to learn every minute detail about life. The answers they are seeking are never that of the simple variety. Nope, each random query is a complete and total mind-ferk:
“Why are people called people?”
“Why am I right-handed?”
“Why do we have to get old?
Hell, if I know, little dude. Ask Daddy.
Kids ask these questions because they are infinitely curious. Each answer leads to another question, and another, and another until we completely lose our patience and our kids are forced to end the inquisition with “why are you so angry?”
We are all born with this natural curiosity, but then somewhere along the line; we stop questioning and start accepting that things are simply as they are. We cubby-hole ourselves as old dogs unable to learn new tricks; stuck in our ways; too busy to care; feel free to insert your best excuse here.
The thing is — if we channel our childish curiosity, and allow ourselves to explore, learn and invent — we can accomplish extraordinary things. Our curiosity is what will lead us to ask the questions we need to answer to gain a new perspective and evolve in our business and careers.
#AdultingTip: Don’t be an ask-hole. It’s one thing to be curious; it’s a whole other to be outright annoying. Instead of rattling off questions rapid-fire, work thoughtful questions into the conversation where they naturally fit and don’t forget to listen to the answers. You can also feed your curiosity through reading, taking courses, watching documentaries — even Googling.
Let’s reimagine childish
So, allow me to now officially grant you permission to be childish. Kids are strong willed, straight-talking, curious creatures. They can teach us to live in the moment, to appreciate our surroundings, to ask questions and to stop taking ourselves so seriously all the time. We can learn to see the extraordinary moments in an otherwise ordinary day.
In order to let go of our inner critics we need to stop thinking and start feeling.
Go ahead and play a little; Laugh a lot.
But, don’t lick the shopping cart at the grocery store. That’s just gross.
Meet the Author: Denise Lee
Denise the Director of Marketing for a midsize commercial law firm in New York City and the creator of iDeaLee, a marketing consultancy dedicated to helping professional services companies execute marketing strategies that blow the mind not the budget. In her spare time, she is hell bent on making an impact on the world in a kickass positive way, celebrating and advocating for women. She is the Alliances Committee Chair for the National Association of Women Business Owners – NYC Chapter and is a contributing writer to Women on Business. She has been described by colleagues as a “bright, proactive, high-energy leader who thinks creatively and acts decisively.”