The talking skills you need

“Hi,” I sulk down the phone to my best friend. “How can you teach someone to talk?”

“From scratch?” the Mentalist answers wondering whether I am referring to my baby boy. “Or someone who can’t talk about themselves?”

My au-pair, she talks to me like my mom and dad talked to each other,” I do my best to explain what it means to not be able to talk. “The chicken, the toothpaste and the bins. It is driving me nuts.”

“I am having a session now,” the Mentalist cuts me off. “I will come back to you after 12. Noon.”

“She goes: I am taking the chicken to the new house,” I try to get the story in nevertheless, despite the fact that the Mentalist just told me he doesn’t have time to talk right now. “Okay.”

“You will need to tell me more?” the Mentalist reassures me I will be able to get this story off my chest in good time. “Later.”

I wait for what seems like ages to hear back from my friend. And it isn’t until late evening that he calls me back.

“And I say: what are you talking about, we don’t have a chicken,” I jump right back into the chicken conversation the moment the Mentalist calls back. I have kept it all stored up inside of me I just need to let it all out. And I do, in a stupid endless recount of the most petty nit picking things. “She meant the chicken in the fridge.”

I pause for a moment to gasp for air as I head straight into the next pet peeve: “Yesterday before I left for yoga I had 3 calm kids, I had talked to Winston and done his homework, read a book with Lilly and played with Willem. When I got back from yoga after 22:00 I had 3 hyper kids who were still not in bed and a very depressed looking au-pair. So I calm the kids again, put them all to bed and decide I will indulge in watching an episode of friends. I know it is a mindless waste of time but it is my way of switching off after a bard day at work and stress from the move. Women also have that mental space you know. So I am sitting there enjoying my 20 minutes of friends and the au-pair joins me in the sofa and starts telling me she bought the toothpaste. I say great because really what am I supposed to say? And then she goes on she didn’t buy the shampoo or the soap. And I am like, I just dont care. Let me switch off and watch my soap opera for god’s sake.”

I am not sure now if the Mentalist is fully grasping what I am telling him so I decide to tell him how I feel about the situation: “I am starting to feel like a man who has married a blonde bimbo. I come home from work to hear about putting the bins out and the bread and the biscuits. My mind is screaming: feed me some decent conversation. Bring me my mistress. And I am a woman for crying out loud!!! Can’t wait for Heleen to return for some decent talk. Now Heleen used to have kids and dinner on the table perfectly timed for when I got home. There would be a cup of tea waiting for me, we would go outside and have a cig and catch up on the day. Homework was also done with Heleen. Is that too much to ask?”

And then I realize that I am in fact talking about a very young girl who has left her home and family, traveled all the way to the other side of the world to help me out with my children. I feel gratitude for her help and am feeling very bad for talking so about her. “Think I just can’t deal with her depression. I can’t be her motivator. She needs to motivate herself, find back her own happy…”

And then I am quiet for a moment because who am I to talk? I get a lot of my motivation from my daily talks with the Mentalist: “Sorry about this, I am just waffling on. In fact I am waffling on to you just like she waffles on to me about toothpaste. But the at least she doesn’t have the pretension to be intelligent”

“Hi. I am back,” the Mentalist finally throws in half mocking me. “Mmm a long story. Is your au-pair feeling unloved? As for shopping get her to write down what she must buy. A routine that is strictly adhered to is important for her to do. Explain your kids need the routine. Explain that being self absorbed does not help her. If she wants to help she must keep the routine going all the time. Her time must be coming to an end soon. Has she had time to go and look around? Has she walked Brussels and Antwerp to death yet? Did her friends in St Nikolas reject her? What about a chicken? Do you have a pet chicken too? Is she able to do homework as Dutch is not her language? Can you show her the routine you require? When does Helen get back?”

“Yes you are right, this is a vicious circle,” I thank my friend for bringing structure to my thoughts. “I am stressed and want to do my thing, she interprets it as me being angry with her and she feels unloved… the big kids aren’t really taking to her either. Routine is something I need to stress again. She is in Belgium still until May. We asked her when she got here what she would like to go see. But she has only said Amsterdam and I am not doing that. She hasn’t been to Brussels or Antwerp. She is always with us. This weekend she is going to St Niklaas but that is very sporadic. Maybe the people there like her but since she doesn’t talk maybe they also find her a bit of a strain. I don’t know. I don’t have a chicken. She explains situations like an 8 year old with no context. She meant the chicken in the fridge. Food for dinner. She thinks that if Lilly stares hard at a paper that that is doing homework. Sigh… Where do I begin? Heleen returns on 1st of February. It will be very very welcome.”

“Yes I am sure it will,” the Mentalist answers taking in my stressed out mood.

“I wish I wasn’t autistic, maybe I would teach her better then,” I sigh as I mark my own shortcomings.

“What do you want her to talk about?” the Mentalist pushes me further for answers. “Ask questions.”

“Well she does nothing so she talks about nothing,” I sigh again. I make a mental note that I am in fact being very pessimistic and rather unfair. “How was your day? Good. And yours? Good. I am putting the pink bins out today. Great. That is it.”

“Ok honey,” the Mentalist answers shortly. He sounds like he has had enough of listening to me whinge. “Be good and kind to yourself.”

“I am no better am I…” I immediately pick up on his tone of voice. “Thanks.”

“You are way better,” the Mentalist attempts to reassure me but I have a hard time figuring out in which way I would even be better.

“Yes you are right,” I have one of my aha-moments. “I am better than this. I am going to make this work and turn that girl into something great. I don’t understand Wim. He would rather sell at a loss than lower the rent price. He thinks the rent should cover the loan.”

“The hard part is subsidising the rent,” the Mentalist explains to me. “You can advertise the house at the full loan price.”

“I have put it at 2.000 excl VAT,” I repeat what I already said yesterday.

“Wait and see if you get a result,” the Mentalist urges me to practise patience. Not one of my strongest traits. “Ask Wim to help you by looking up the resettlement companies.”

“Wim is happy with me doing it all,” I sigh. It is no use. I am just in one of those fatalistic moods today. “And Winston refuses to do his homework. Grrrr what is it with everybody?”

“Tomorrow is a new day,” the Mentalist susses me with some of his wise words.

“Yes,” I agree because this has often helped me to accept a situation for what it is and see how to handle it the next day after a good night’s rest.

“Organize everyone via the au-pair in the morning,” the Mentalist advises me.

“What do you mean?” I ask him puzzled because I thought she did just that. “She takes Lilly to school and Willem to creche, I take Winston. I also get everyone out of bed and make breakfast.”

“Tell her what you want her to achieve by the time you get home,” the Mentalist spells out what it means to truly delegate. “Make it three things. Bed time for me. I hope to send you a blog tomorrow. Sleep well.”

I am ready for a radical shift in how I talk, think and use my voice over social media.

Get ready for my annual prediction of what’s in store for next year. I invite your to re-discover one of my best posts from last year, which played itself out nicely over the entire year, and learn tactics you can use to adjust your strategy for success on in 2019 and beyond.

Love,

Fiona

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