Updated: Apr 8, 2019
What’s the key to great relationships? Therein lies the million dollar question. I’ve worked in hospitality, training and coordinating marketing campaigns for the private sector and government and I can tell you that in every area the people who get along best with other people get the furthest ahead.
While this blog is specifically about getting along with parents and the examples I use will reflect that any of the principals described here can be used to #winatlife and relationships with anyone.
1. Start every conversation with praise and honest appreciation.
In Toastmasters, a program dedicated to personal development, every speech is reviewed by an evaluator. Each meeting has a speaker of the night and evaluator of the night. In every club, I’ve visited, the evaluator of the night award went to the person who was able to provide criticism in the most constructive way. Similarly, I’m in a mastermind group for speakers, and our Coach Lisa Nichols always insists that any reviews we give to each other’s work always begin with two compliments followed up by what can be improved.
In relationships how we talk to each other matters and we can’t begin to build a good relationship, especially with our parents- who by there very age already assume they are right- if we don’t start with praise. The catch though is that this praise has to be genuine. People know when your flattery is fake, and it makes the conversation same disingenuous if your praise isn't real. If you are finding it hard to think of two things to compliment them on, use these "Mommy/Daddy, I appreciate you for having me and all the times you’ve ironed my clothes." "Mommy/ Daddy I love you, and I’m grateful for the bills you paid and for keeping a roof over my head." Remember start with praise. This leads us on to point 2.
2. Show respect for the other person's opinion.
This is hard. I remember talking this over with a friend who said, “I can’t do that! If I let them talk first or I say ‘you are right’ I’m giving away my power!”
I know that feeling, but I also know through experience that going into any situation telling the other person they are wrong will only make them stick harder to their convictions or cause them to alienate you by agreeing with you to end the argument and them still believing they are right and you are wrong anyway. I do the latter all the time because I honestly cannot argue with someone who won’t change their opinion anyway. It also means I want to spend less time around that person because I don’t believe there is any value to our exchange.
On the other hand when people same genuinely interested in what I have to say I’m more open to hearing what they have to say as well. Consider this, until the day he died all reports indicate that Al Capone did not believe he had done anything wrong and no one could convince him otherwise. If a known killer could deny wrongdoing, how much can we? Prayerfully your parents aren't notorious killers, and so the reasons you can’t get along aren’t related to that. Whatever the reason, Remember that each individual brings their own history, experiences, trauma, triumphs and biases to a conversation and you may think they are wrong but they think they are right and you aren’t going to win them over to your side by saying "you are wrong." So how can you “win the argument” if you can’t tell them your wrong? First, understand that no one wins an argument because someone always leaves feeling bitter or has resentment when it’s put in that context. Second, read point 3.
3. Let the other person feel like the idea is theirs.
Over the years I’ve managed staff who are sometimes older than me and sat at tables with people who were wealthier or had more power than me. I’ve found that I’ve been able to do my best work when I’ve been able to first listen to them and then frame their ideas and solutions into my thoughts but get them to think the idea was there’s all along. My husband is masterful at this. He’ll say “so babe you think Saturday morning is a good time to take the car to get serviced?” Rather than “Star take your car in to be serviced Saturday.” While this may not appear to be a big deal, the result makes a big difference. When the question is asked all I can say is "yes babe that works" or "no babe I’m busy Saturday" but how’s Friday evening. Without trying he’s put the onus on me to come up with a solution if I can’t do what he indirectly suggested by allowing me to choose therefore making me believe it was my idea all along.
If you have a challenging personality, you don’t want anyone telling you what to do. Parents definitely don’t want kids telling them what to do! Learn to phrase your requests in ways that can make it seem like their idea. A great way to do this is in point 4.
4. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
So you are upset. You are hurt, I’m sorry but what does that have to do with me? To win at life and relationships even with parents, you continuing to talk about your feelings does nothing to help them. By talking about how badly you feel, you make them feel sorry about the way they raised you or are currently interacting with you, and that just raises feelings of anger and guilt. Therefore approach the conversation by finding out what they want. What are their goals now? What are they looking forward to? For many of our parents, retirement can be scarier than inviting. Understand that they are humans going through human trials and try to figure out how you can create solutions for them while achieving what you want.
5. Finally, if all else fails, kill them with kindness.
The Bible refers to this as “throwing burning coal on a persons head” to be kind in the face of unkindness. Martin Luther King used it to secure civil rights. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela both used this method for the advancement of their nation, and it’s been my favourite tool to use against stubborn older people I’ve had to manage. By going out of my way and using the points above to engage in the conversation about their day, their children, their happiness what they were excited about— by smiling and saying good morning consistently even without a response, over time I’ve been able to win over even the meanest face. So throw down the challenge of outdoing one another in zeal and see what happens.
With each and every one of these ideas your tone and body language matter and so does that of the other person, listen with both your ears and your eyes to what they are saying and as much as possible give them what you wish they would give you. Love manifested in respect and support. I’ll be praying for ya.