I am a college graduate. According to my academic records, I am smarter than my kids think I am. Even though in college I spent a lot of my time with teachers and students in my chosen field, today I like to be around people from all occupations. I have many close friends who are MDs, PhDs, and business owners. I like to listen to successful people. However, many professional disciplines come with a very specific vocabulary, which sometimes leaves me a little confused during a conversation. Consequently, I am very grateful when friends are able to explain and discuss complicated matters in everyday language.
In college, I always felt that if I worked hard to discuss various concepts and principles using a lot of big words and phrases that I would get a better grade. I never felt like I was making anything clearer, especially to myself, but I still wore out one or two thesauruses in the process. (Yes, I was pre-computer.) When I became a mother, none of those big words I learned in college helped one bit in dealing with my three-year old. I eventually had to accept the challenge of teaching and communicating using very simple words. But even words don’t always cut it when trying to teach abstract principles to a child. Eventually, after a lot of trial and error, I learned how to teach profound concepts using examples, stories, and metaphors. It worked well for teaching children. However, my biggest surprise over the years was discovering how valuable this technique is for helping teens and adults understand and discuss theories and concepts as well.
When I began my research for the book, “An Eight-Cow Woman Deserves an Eight-Cow Man” I felt very comfortable talking about essential traits for a happy, successful relationship in terms of cows. I had been talking that way for years with my children. When Dr. Erickson and other therapists pointed out how effective the metaphors in our book were for helping adults grasp important thoughts, I felt my years as a stay-at-home working mom had really paid off. And I continue to find, that for most people, keeping things simple enough for the understanding of a child is the best place to start with any idea or concept, especially relationships.
I have seen relationships where one of the partners condescendingly used an elevated speech and vocabulary as a weapon to confuse and belittle the other. It is hurtful and certainly solves nothing. One of my favorite philosophers is Albert Einstein. He stated, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Therapists tell us that when they are able to get a couple to speak in the same safe and simple language things get a little easier. Just like engineers and doctors have their own language and vocabulary to make themselves clear to each other, couples who are able to establish a mutual language that is explicit yet simple will find less confusion and more success in their communication. Some of the most effective relationship programs contain good examples of such a language—as does The Eight-Cow Relationship. The use of metaphors and visualizations seems to put couples at ease—defensive walls come down, establishing common ground for solving problems.
The Eight-Cow language is simple, yet not so simple that it can’t help to facilitate communication on the most complex issues facing couples today. I am always happy when someone tells me that he or she was unable to put their feelings into words or identify an issue until they started talking in terms of cows. I know it sounds a little silly and simple. But it works. And I am sure there is a very complicated way to explain why it works but I will save that for someone else to discuss.
Tracy Lynn Cutler