“I need your help. Can you please... ” A common dilemma is what to say to family members who don’t pitch in. So, here’s a simple tip: Rather than accusing the person of being lazy or inconsiderate, ask for what you want, and be specific. For example, let’s say you host a potluck Thanksgiving at your house every year and your cousin Barry always shows up empty-handed. You might say to him, “I need your help. I want to have a bigger variety of food this year, so can you please bring a pumpkin pie?” This’ll give him a specific mission.
“What did you mean by that? Sometimes asking the right question is all it takes to avoid an argument. That’s because we all make assumptions about other people’s intentions. So, if you ask this question in a genuinely interested way - and not passive-aggressive, it’ll allow the other person to explain herself before you jump to conclusions. Just because your sister says, “That isn’t the way mom makes mashed potatoes ” – that doesn’t mean she’s criticizing you. Maybe she’s curious about your new recipe. So, ask them to clarify what they mean before you respond.
“I’m sorry you’re upset.” When you find yourself frustrated with a family member who didn’t take your advice, and now they’re upset, you might be tempted to say something like, “That was a bad move,” or, “I told you so!” Well DON’T. Dishing out criticism won’t change a thing. However, a compassionate response, such as “I’m sorry you’re upset” will help you both move forward, and it’ll make the family get-together a much happier event.
“Thank you for your opinion. I’ll think about it.” When you receive some unsolicited advice – “You really should update your wardrobe,” or, “You should get back together with Jill.” – Just smile and respond with these two short sentences. Don’t get defensive or rude, the goal is to be polite and end the conversation.
“Would you like my thoughts?” One of the biggest complaints kids of all ages have about their parents is that they constantly give orders and make judgments. Sometimes, that’s your job as a parent. However, if you’re often confronted with angry responses, “It’s none of your business!” or, “What makes you think you know everything?” – you might benefit from dialing it down a notch. Instead, ask your son or daughter if they want to hear what you have to say. If they say yes, go for it. If not – button your lip.
“Why don’t we get the facts?” Some family members like to argue about everything, including things that can be easily resolved - like the price of a new car or the name of that fancy Italian restaurant downtown. So, say this magic phrase, “Why don’t we get the facts?” – and then make a phone call or look up the information online. The point isn’t so one of you can pull an “I told you so” - but so you can move on from the discussion before it turns into a fight.
To contact Val Baldwin, please visit: http://www.valbaldwin.com.