Have you ever heard of the phrase: “it’s in there…”? Prego brand spaghetti sauce famously used it to promote the idea that their jar of red sauce had all of the good ingredients, methodology and spices of a homemade brand. In the whackadoodle model of advertisements as the social proof of that era, someone representing a consumer entered the scene and spoke up for the value of a product in a brand’s lineup. It wasn’t real, it was a representation or a type of what the advertiser imagined that one neighbor endorsing their product to a friend or acquaintance would look like. As it turns out, most of the prepared food products being hawked on television radio and in magazines didn’t live up to the hype behind their campaigns. They weren’t the “real thing”.
The thing about many of the products on the shelves back then is that their ingredients weren’t all listed. The laws were later amended to make leaving out details like unattractive ingredients, preservatives and chemical additives more difficult to disguise, but it’s an ongoing back-and-forth between mass producers of consumable food products and government agencies acting to require reasonable disclosures.
Sometimes LIFE can feel like that list of mysterious ingredients that parade in order of descending quantities on the labels of our food. It’s always a little disconcerting to read that the first two ingredients in your favorite soup starter are 1) salt and 2) monosodium glutamate. Or that the fat that’s now OUT of your baked goods was replaced by sugar. (Excuse me while I squick out a little bit here… bleh!)
The things that we have to get done every day can be like those lists of ingredients on the prepared foods lining the aisles of our grocery stores and warehouses. Some of that stuff is hard to recognize, pronounce or even account for! Maybe the “run the kids to school” routine started with an “up-eat-dress-brush teeth-out the door” series of steps when they were in pre-k or elementary school. Odds are, by the time they made it to middle school, particular brands of toothpaste/ breakfast foods/ favorite drinks/ grooming products were added to the lineup. Lunch money or sack lunch gave way to who they were going to sit with and what choices were on offer at the pop-up food boutique on school grounds or their favorite fast food pit stop. Maybe you once knew all of their appointments, assignments, friends, frenemies and teachers.
Now, though? Well, it’s all there. It’s accessible through the online portal for whatever the homework and policy data are from the school. After hunting, reading and trying to parse some of the “officialese” in the communications, parents are free to send an e-mail, an e-message or make an e-ppointment to clear up any confusion or address any concerns. Information that plots their performance academically may be available, but it isn’t the whole picture.
It requires some interpretation. Social function and wellbeing within the peer groups and meta-groups may be harder to come by and impossible to parse accurately. Because the way that your middle schooler or teen feels about their lived experience is vastly different than the way that you might have felt about your own. Or that you anticipated that they would feel. It’s the mystery ingredient thing again. More stuff to account for. And your kids don’t come with a complete label, so you have to use your own faculties to stay on top of things.
Curiosity helps to open the door for communication with kids and with the other people sharing space with us. It’s an essential tool because it’s the only way to create a safe space where others can share with us a portion of what they are experiencing. Their felt experience. Parents can only reasonably compensate for what they can discern, intuit and know based on their own experiences and on the quality and quantity of communication and interaction with their kids.
Of course, this is applicable to relationships that are personal, professional and based on other interests such as hobbies, missions and passions. Connection depends on an ongoing sending and receiving that begins with the creation of a safe space through the use of simple, nonjudgemental curiosity. That’s a dynamic that can help with bosses, kids, spouses. Even with self-awareness, self-discovery and self-management.
So- for any area of our lives over time- curiosity can help us to discover what is ACTUALLY in there. Because we all know that the ingredients on the label may not be complete, or in the quantities listed or with the nutritional values stated. This is as true of humans in their roles as it is of consumer products. Remember the “caution” statements? Those of us who’ve been alive forever remember when warning labels appeared for the first time on a host of consumer products, including appliances, cigarettes, machinery, laundry detergents, machinery and medications.
Side effects, statements summarizing possible harm in the event of misuse and other “oh no” possibilities were all listed. With materials in chemical, industrial and manufacturing settings, there’s a Material Data Safety Sheet or more standardized Data Safety Sheet that specifies handling, hazards and other helpful information. Labels don’t give us everything that we need to know, certainly. But in consumables, food and other materials, they’re a good way to satisfy safety standards and it’s good to be curious enough to use them.
Finding out what’s in us, our colleagues, family and friends is essential information to have on hand, When stress is high, it’s good to have a sense of the normal operation of an app, a consumable, a person, a product or an organization. It can tell us at what points stressors may cause compromised function or even critical loss of function. We’ve all been in situations where we WISH we hadn’t said that dumb thing because it happened to be the wrong moment or just the wrong person to vent that particular emotion to.
Like- the employee who had eternally been on Zoom meetings and was trying to leave at 4:30 sharp for an appointment when her boss wanted her on ONE MORE meeting. The text she meant for a colleague venting about her “insane boss: went to her boss by mistake. Ouch. So curiosity is key to knowing the context. Because people as well as products operate within a range of conditions. Knowing that and applying it will save a lot of frustration. If Prego’s “it’s in there” campaign of yesteryear taught us nothing else, it taught us that people can SAY anything. But real experience and information is everything.
What are you curious about with respect to you own relationships and roles? Where are your conditions allowing for optimum functioning? Or- do you need a little help discovering what’s IN there and getting things situated so that YOU can function at your best? Call one of our compassionate coaches for a free consultation. We’re happy to journey with you on your path of discovery!