I stole this from a book about chimps – I hope they don’t mind.
Your child runs out of school with their very first painting. It is terrible.
They run up to you brandishing the painting. You say ‘what a brilliant painting, that’s going on the fridge door’.
Ignore that you have told a lie, that kind of lie is OK.
The rest of the statement is more interesting and could be said better.
What you should say is ‘hello darling (or whatever positive term you use, and it must be positive) – ooh, a painting. Let’s put it on the fridge door’.
Most people can’t see a significant difference between the two versions.
BUT the first one has made a connection, a harmful one, that might stick in the developing mind FOREVER.
The connection is that you have brilliant (or pretty, whatever you used) and an expectation of brilliance.
The painting is going on the fridge door whatever because it’s special, not because it is brilliant.
You may still be mystified. The difference between the statements is that the second one just says ‘I love you, whatever the circumstances and whatever you bring because I just do and you never need to worry about that’.
The first one says ‘I love you, but it’s conditional on you being brilliant. Fall below that standard and you’re toast’.
You might not intend to say that, I hope not. But communication is tricky and choosing the wrong words can hurt, or even do lifelong harm. For an ADHDer, with their oversensitive emotional state, that can be double.
As humans we are never brilliant at everything. Stephen Fry is a genius, lovely etc etc but is also deeply flawed.
I used an example with a child because it is more easily explained. But it works for any relationship – think about how you phrase things because you can connect things that you don’t intend to and can come home to bite you in the bum later on.
Don’t be conditional unless you actually mean it.