parents to the end

Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: It’s Your Job to be Real, Not Nice

Posted on August 16, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman

Note:  This is my 100th post !!


It’s Your Job to be Real, Not Nice.

What? This isn’t what I learned growing up. I thought being a daughter, wife, and mother meant being a nice person.  Doesn’t it?

For most people, being nice comes easily. For women especially, we value confluence i.e. getting along, coming together. Conflict makes us uneasy. Consequently, we may go to great pains to avoid disagreement.

I want to be treated pleasantly when I go about my daily activities, whether it be working, shopping, doctor’s appointments, visits with family or friends.  The truth is, however, that being nice has its place and its limits.  Relationships cannot maintain without some conflict and the means for resolution. Just being nice won’t get people through the rough patches in a marriage, friendship or in parenting. Using an easy example, parents who are too nice with their children may fail to give their kids the boundaries that will provide security and lessons about life. We can’t always be our children’s friends. We have to deliver messages that they don’t want to hear.

We are “real” with our children when we when set appropriate limits, give them feedback (positive and negative), allow them to experience natural consequences, and hold them accountable. When they don’t like what parents have to say, young children often accuse them of being “mean.” We come to expect some of this in parenting, so, as I said above, this is a relatively “easy” example of being real.

In our relationships with adult children, spouses, partners, or friends, being genuine can be more difficult. We can, however, be authentic without being aggressive, real without being destructive. In fact, to maintain positive connections, finding ways to communicate our deep feelings in a nondestructive way is essential.

Here are a few thoughts about being authentic in your relationships:

  • When you have trepidation about communicating something of importance, think of your goal. Are you wanting to build up or tear down, to be closer or more distant? Most of us would say we want to build up and be closer, but our actions don’t always take us in that direction. We need to behave with a constructive approach.
  • People worry that they will hurt the person with whom they have an issue. Make sure that you give a complete message to that person. For example, you may want to give some negative feedback to a friend at work, but you don’t want her to feel that you don’t like or appreciate her.   A “complete” message could include noting how much you enjoy working with her, and that you don’t want to damage your friendship , but that you do have something of concern to talk about. Then share what is of concern to you.

Toastmasters International gives people excellent skills in evaluating others’ speeches. They begin the evaluation with what they liked, make their constructive comments, and end evaluations on a positive note.

  • Be a good listener.  Listening is a huge part of effective communication. Make sure that you acknowledge the other persons’ position or feelings. That does not mean that you must agree with him.  In my office, the main complaint I hear in couple’s therapy is that one or both does not feel heard or understood by the other. Good listening means listening without jumping right in to defend yourself. It means listening without judging the other’s perceptions, beliefs, and feelings.

There is always some risk involved when we are candid with others, but that candor, delivered carefully, can deepen both conversation and connection. Give it a try.

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