Dr. Bill Hale believes that people can be classified as one of three different types of punctuation mark:
The Exclamation Points These are the “my way or the highway” folks who fight you for the sake of being right, who know best and are unwilling to believe there’s room for anyone else’s views or insights. For the SNL fans, it’s Dana Carvey’s Church Lady and her condescending tone when saying “Well, isn’t that special!”
I’ll take Dr. Hale’s description one step further – I believe Exclamation Points are living out loud, not always in a good way. They’re so busy being adamant that they’ve forgotten to notice the mitigating factors, the gray areas, and the fact that things change.
The Periods The Periods have come to a halt. They’ve checked off a box on their list, believing they’ve gone as far as they can go, nothing more needs to be done, and they’ve grown as much as they care to, thank-you-very-much. Their behavior isn’t that of “acceptance,” but rather a “stop sign.” Kind of a “been there, done that” dismissal.
The Question Marks As the name would imply, these are the seekers. They’re curious, open to receive new insights, and are willing to ask the tough questions that are sometimes required for growth. They’re my kind of people, and probably yours. While we’d all like to believe we’re always open and willing to receive the lessons our experiences bring us, it’s not usually the case (at least not for me).
How to Be A Question Mark When you’re inclined to shut down (Period) or insist/yell (Exclamation Point), just ask a question instead:
- What it this here to teach me?
- Why am I unwilling to go there?
- What’s got me so afraid?
- Where else in my life is this happening?
- What don’t I want to know right now?
Sure, it’d be great to feel as though we’re “finished,” secure in the fact that we’ve mastered life and have got it all down pat. But since that’s not going to happen for us any time soon, why not “lean into the mystery,” as Caroline Myss says, and see what happens.