Connecting Without Offending

Suzanne Burnett
2 min readMay 30, 2024

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"Why are we always waiting on the girls?"

"Why do we have to leave so early when I just stand there for thirty minutes waiting for school to start?"

One morning, our three oldest school children were having a lively discussion about the most opportune time to walk out the door.
As it turned out, the oldest boy likes to leave early enough to get his favorite parking spot, something the "waiting forever for school to start" sister had never experienced. Hence, the dragging of her feet to walk out the door.

The older brother then turned to the younger brother, placed his hand on his shoulder, and quipped, "But besides that, girls just take longer. It's something you have to get used to."

"Yes," I piped up, "and someday when you're a dad, may you not be the kind to get yourself ready, start the car, and honk the horn."

This 12-year-old, in wide-eyed sincerity, looked at me curiously and asked, "Why not?"

Now insert a quote from President David O. McKay, ninth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

" 'Words do not convey meanings; they call them forth.’ I speak out of the context of my experience, and you listen out of the context of yours, and that is why communication is difficult”. 1

Read that one more time, slowly.

In my 12-year-old's experience, getting yourself ready and going to the car is exactly what you do on a Sunday morning. He's never been a dad, but in 17 years he may very well learn that his marriage could be much happier if he dresses and loads the two little children while his wife has the luxury of putting on mascara before running out the door. That's where I was coming from.

On that school morning, when his mother doubled over in laughter at his serious question, my bewildered sixth grade son escaped the room as fast as possible.

And so I bumble on.

How deeply I want to learn to see people the way our Savior sees people, to love them and help them as He would.

And how badly I trip through this communication cycle and mess up every day!

But people can change. With some Help, I believe that I--and we-- can be one of those people.

Elder David A. Bednar taught, "Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense." 2

That's what we're banking on here.

And so I pick up the shattered pieces of my boy’s confidence, apologize, and try again to connect without offending, even if the experiences we are basing our communication on are so vastly different!

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Suzanne Burnett

Mother of twelve children and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shares spiritual insights learned through parenting and marriage.