If you’re a parent, you just got a nervous tic when you read that. That’s because you’re very familiar with the childhood pattern of screaming.

For the uninitiated, screaming is due to sub-humanoid offspring not yet knowing how to use their oratory faculties to communicate specific needs. As a result, a scream could mean many things.

To an infant, it most likely means:

I’m really hungry.


I just crapped my pants.

To a toddler, it probably means:

Help me, help me, dear Jesus, I have a tooth puncturing my gums.


The corner of the desk just intercepted my temple at a high velocity.

Of course, to a four-year-old, a scream could mean:

You sick twisted sibling of mine, I want my toy back right now. If I had the ability to chew your hand off, I would. And I’m at least going to try.


I’m petrified that a giant version of Elmo is under my bed and has negotiated with Lucifer to digest my face.

Any good mother can interpret the nuances hidden in these primal cries with amazing precision. (Fathers, on the other hand, are not so adept). Likewise, mothers quickly instruct their offspring to “use [their] words” with amazing efficiency (so as not to go completely insane themselves. It’s really more like a survival instinct than a cherished virtue of instructive passion).

While these screaming anecdotes are all well and good for sentient quadrupeds and bipeds under 48″ tall, they can also apply to the more mature forms of humanity. Namely, adults. Though we might not be terrified of Elmo (although I certainly understand if you are), we do tend to do our own fair share of “screaming.”

Ours might not be the shrieking kind, but that of another, more grown-up sort, but no less childish. When we fail to properly communicate what we’re feeling or thinking, we resort to adult-screaming: more commonly known as complaining.

Here are three tips to help you “use your words” instead of expecting others to be able to interpret your shrieks.

Take A Deep Breath

Before going to anyone with your issue, whether it be your spouse, friend, boss or associate, give yourself some cool-down time to process what you’re experiencing. Typically, when we’re confronted with volatile or tumultuous situations, we have a natural tendency to respond emotionally on par with the circumstances. Doing so only feeds the drama instead of revealing the insightful answers we need to see the problem resolved. Many times with my own staff, I make them wait a mandatory period of time before coming to me with any problem; most times, they find creative ways to solve their situation all by themselves, and realize their own would-have-been responses as reactionary instead of proactive. This saves them and me time, energy and drama.

Me Or Them?

The moment an issue arises in any relationship in which you feel lead to complain about the other person, examine your own self to see if the burden of proof for your supposed reaction lies on you instead of the other person. Many times, if we’re honest, we’ll notice that it’s our own self that needs to be addressed, and that our reactionary response is only evidence to this fact. Even if the other person is in the wrong, approaching them with this kind of humble, sincere attitude will go a long way to rectifying even the most abrasive scenarios.

Eagle-Eye View

Probably the most helpful thing in the midst of any issue is to step back and examine the situation from a “higher altitude.” This requires that you master the first point above. Once tempers have cooled down, methodically examining all angles of a problem allows us to judge what kind of a response we need to have. I can safely say that 99% of my problems in life are First World problems, in that even my biggest inconveniences are someone else’s extravagant blessings in some other part of the world. Similarly, in terms of interpersonal contexts, most arguments (if not all) are ever worth the value of the person or the relationship. Put “thing issues” in a global context, and put “people issues” in a “who will really care about this in 100 years?” context.

What have some of your latest “screams” been about lately? (Yes, seeing a human-size version of Elmo counts).



Sarah Novak · 6 Jan ’14 at 9:47 pm

Oh how this made me giggle. As a mommy of screamers, who came from a family of screamers, who, by the grace of God and the amazing patience of my husband, has learned not to scream…your descriptions of small people screams made me smile. In fact, we had a full on toothbrushing meltdown tonight (because she was “almost done” and mommy said time to get in bed). But for Adoniah, the screaming can stop with a quick, where’s my nose redirection. And that redirection, I find works so well for me too. Although asking where your nose is might not be the best way when I’m fuming. But I do find when my flesh wants to throw a pity party and complain, that redirecting my thoughts, and praising always pulls me out. Sometimes it may take a while, but if I faithfully confront the lies and complaints that I have with the positive truths that God has put in my life, my whole perspective shifts and suddenly there is nothing to complain about. A garment of praise instead of ashes.

    Christopher Hopper · 6 Jan ’14 at 9:57 pm

    @Sarah: Thanks for the tell-all glimpse here; valuable insight here for sure! Great stuff. And as for the tooth-brush melt-down…happens to me all the time, so I share her pain.

Gabe · 6 Jan ’14 at 10:13 pm

Good stuff, man.

“Many times, if we’re honest, we’ll notice that it’s our own self that needs to be addressed, and that our reactionary response is only evidence to this fact.”
“I can safely say that 99% of my problems in life are First World problems, in that even my biggest inconveniences are someone else’s extravagant blessings in some other part of the world.”


Mike Kim · 7 Jan ’14 at 12:24 am

“Many times with my own staff, I make them wait a mandatory period of time before coming to me with any problem.” I love this.

Complaining…so much can be said of this. I think it’s important for people to feel their problems are valid. What’s important to them is important…to them. But really, some of the issues I deal with in the scope of the cosmos could be solved with Levi’s pacifier.

I love that you are blogging more.

    Christopher Hopper · 7 Jan ’14 at 7:18 am

    @Mike: Thanks for inspiring me.

    I’ll carry more pacifiers around.

Beth Walrath · 7 Jan ’14 at 2:36 am

Can’t wait for the different children screams. 🙂

Thanks for sharing this, it’s something I needed to read.

With the death of a former manager and recent issues coming up at work, I’ve been thinking a lot about anger and how words can hurt others. Lots of times we get upset or angry because of something that was said or done by others. Most of the time they have no clue what they said or did. We are fast to get angry with out talking to the other person. The bible says “be slow to anger”,
If we listen to that we can solve half of our complaints about other’s.
Communication skills help in that department, where babies and toddlers don’t have those skills yet, it doesn’t seem to change in adults. We sometimes let things go and get so angry we start yelling and then end up saying things we don’t mean to. This was the case for a coworker of mine, he let things he was upset and angry about go so much that he started yelling at a manger. Thankfully, another manager stepped in and was their mediator. She made them sit down and talk it out. There are times we need to have a mediator totally uninvolved with the situation to make us aware of what is really going on. Then again, if we talk to God about it and let His words come out of our mouths, it solves a lot more than yelling does.

    Christopher Hopper · 7 Jan ’14 at 7:20 am

    @Beth: I love the point of getting a mediator. Such a great tool for seeing healthy resolution brought about. Isn’t it interesting that we ourselves were given a great Paraclete? So grateful for Him.

Christopher Hopper · 7 Jan ’14 at 8:50 am

To all my recent commenters, I’ve just switched to using Disqus for my comment platform. This allows you to track comments as we go. The downside is that you last comments are no longer viewable. My apologies. Feel free to repost if you want. The upside is that you won’t ever have to do this again.

    Mike Kim · 7 Jan ’14 at 4:04 pm

    There should be an “import comments” option…did you see it?

      Christopher Hopper · 7 Jan ’14 at 5:01 pm

      No, never saw that option. 🙁

        Mike Kim · 7 Jan ’14 at 5:06 pm

        You can still do it. Give me access to your….backend? Or I can explain to you how to do your backend verbally…?

          Christopher Hopper · 7 Jan ’14 at 5:13 pm

          I just made you a user. With a great password.

Erica D Lehman · 7 Jan ’14 at 6:07 pm

This is Erica (my name on the old platform). I don’t have a Disquis account, but I do have social media. I’ve screamed in my life. Screams can be good or bad. My dad has screamed on a roller coaster but I’ve never been on one.

    Christopher Hopper · 7 Jan ’14 at 7:13 pm

    You definitely need to hit a roller coaster soon then! You’re missing out!

      Erica D Lehman · 8 Jan ’14 at 12:12 pm

      I went on some kiddie coasters as a kid but not a regular one. I don’t need to barf to have a good time, I’ve always thought. I go on the Tilt-a-Whirl and swings at the fair, as well as the bungee at the Lewis County Fair. That’s my county. I can do rock climbing but not sky diving or a ride in a racecar. I climbed on top of my swing set as a little kid. I’m not a total adrenaline junkie, but not completely calm, as you can see from this.

        Christopher Hopper · 8 Jan ’14 at 4:28 pm

        Well, at least you know your limits! And you have a bunch of us adrenaline junkies who appreciate you *not* barfing on us.

          Erica D Lehman · 9 Jan ’14 at 11:15 am

          I don’t know whether or not I’d barf, I just don’t care to risk an upset tummy.

          Christopher Hopper · 9 Jan ’14 at 1:54 pm

          We all thank you in either case.

Comments are closed.