Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: artk2002 on April 10, 2013, 03:41:30 PM

Title: Magic Words
Post by: artk2002 on April 10, 2013, 03:41:30 PM
This isn't a situation or a question (so please, no "what's the etiquette question here?" posts), but some thoughts that I've had for a while that I think bear putting into a summary post and discussing.

We frequently (as in just about 2-3 every day) get posts that can be boiled down to this:

"I have an unreasonable person in my life who does something that I don't like. If I assert myself they'll get upset and up the ante making me and the people around us uncomfortable. What polite words can I say that will get them to change their behavior?"

What the poster means by "polite" is really "won't set the other person off." The sad truth is that those magic words don't exist. If the person were reasonable, then there wouldn't be an issue. Polite words would work fine. With unreasonable people, we're not so lucky.

The only choices are to remain silent and put up with the bad behavior to keep the peace, or assert oneself and put up with the fall out. Although we encourage people to stand up for themselves, neither choice is wrong in-and-of itself. They're only right or wrong for the specific context. I've chosen both ways in different situations. Asking yourself "Is this the hill I want to die on?" is part of the process of making that choice.  That said, I have a strong preference for asserting oneself, for a couple of reasons: First off, if things are going to be uncomfortable whichever choice you make, why not be true to yourself? There's great satisfaction in knowing that you stood up for yourself, even if it brings some discomfort. Second, there's a chance for change. If you say nothing, change will never happen. If you do say something, it's possible that the bad behavior will stop, eventually. Search for threads where "polite spine" has been effective -- there are lots of them.

If you choose to assert yourself, there are a few "dos" and "don't" that should be observed. Don't JADE -- Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain. Explanations and justifications are great with reasonable people. With unreasonable people, they're just an opportunity to negotiate. You get into exchanges like this: "I can't drive you cross country tomorrow because I'm having a hangnail removed." "You can reschedule your appointment." "No, I can't, it's taken 8 months for the health service to get this scheduled." "Aw, don't you care about meeeeeeeeeeee? We can leave right after your hangnail removal -- you'll just have to drive faster!" That kind of conversation is endless -- I've heard it likened to trying to squeeze a water balloon. Every time you push on one side, it bulges out on another.

Do keep calm and try to keep emotion out of it, even if you're hurting. Accusatory words will only put the other person on the defensive. The "I message" is a very good technique: "I <feeling> when you <unwanted action>; please <desired action>". That won't necessarily get the other person to change, but it has the best chance. Saying "no" or "stop" or whatever isn't rude in and of itself. It can be done rudely or politely. "Please stop <x>" is polite. "Lay off, you sheep-bothering, mouth-breathing moron" is not, no matter how satisfactory it might feel.

One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours. When in doubt, come here and ask; we'll set you straight! Please don't take this as if I were saying that you should ignore the feelings of others, but you should be careful about whose opinions and feelings you care about; it's very context-dependent. You should care what your boss thinks about your job performance, but don't need to care what s/he thinks about how you relate to your spouse. Your mother-in-law can care about how you treat her and (to an extent) your spouse; she doesn't get to care about how you do your job. The stranger at the bus stop? They don't get a vote at all. I know that it hurts when a stranger comments on weight, or parenting or appearance or anything, but you have to ask yourself "why do I care what that person feels?" Make sure that when you're looking for the magic words, you're looking for the right reasons. Don't waste your time trying to placate someone whose opinion, in the long run, shouldn't matter at all.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: TootsNYC on April 10, 2013, 03:55:34 PM
Quote
One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours.

You've said this many times, and I applaud mentally every time you do.

Adn I love the underlined as a way to gauge, "who's the unreasonable one?"
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: artk2002 on April 10, 2013, 04:01:37 PM
Thanks!  ;D
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: camlan on April 10, 2013, 04:02:42 PM
Totally, totally agree.

So many people use getting upset as a way of controlling those around them. Leaving people with the choice to always knuckle under or risk the temper tantrum.

Once I started letting the temper tantrums roll, my life became happier, because I was doing what I wanted, and not bowing to the wishes of others.

It took a good 15 years after moving away from home for me to realize that *I* was not making my father upset; he was making himself upset. My actions were perfectly normal. I behaved the same way I did at home as I did elsewhere. Only at home was there yelling and fist pounding and sulking.

I have to say this. When you've grown up being told that you are the cause of someone's temper tantrums and sulks, it can take years until you realize that other people like you. That you don't have to constantly apologize, or worry about their feelings before yours, or brace yourself for being yelled at.

But once you reach that point, when you know you aren't doing anything wrong, and you do what you want and let the temper tantrums fall where they may, it is a very freeing feeling.

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: *inviteseller on April 10, 2013, 04:06:33 PM
Thank you for your wise words.  I am a pretty strong, opinionated woman, but there were certain people I just rolled over for.  I started standing up for myself (politely, except one small incident :-[) and it amazed me how angry these people got at me when I quit being their doormat.  I have learned that if I stand up for myself and someone gets all whiny or throws a fit instead of saying "I'm sorry for offending", then I just walk away because any further conversation will just be a round and round argument.  The only people with magic words are the people who go through life being polite, trying not to offend but apologizing when they may.   
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: WillyNilly on April 10, 2013, 04:10:50 PM
There is only one "magic word" I know of, and I was quizzed on it plenty as a kid:

"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"May I please have a cookie?"

 ;D
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: jpcher on April 10, 2013, 05:47:21 PM
Okay! We can shut down the forum now. Artk has succinctly answered everybody's questions in one fell swoop! >:D  ;D


Seriously, artk -- your post was very well written. If people are prone to print out or save poems, adages, words of advice, etc. so that they can once in a while refer to written words for reminders, then your post should be amongst their files.

I know I put it in my "reminders" folder.


Don't waste your time trying to placate someone whose opinion, in the long run, shouldn't matter at all.

I'm big on trying to please everyone all of the time. It is definitely a hardship on my soul . . . Shouldn't I have done this differently? What if I did that instead? Most of these thoughts are about people that really don't have any influence in my life.

It's the little things that trips me up.


Thanks, artk2002, for your well-written reminder.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: JeseC on April 10, 2013, 06:52:54 PM
Quote
One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours.

You've said this many times, and I applaud mentally every time you do.

Adn I love the underlined as a way to gauge, "who's the unreasonable one?"

It's probably worth it to make sure the someone used for comparison is not a member of the same group as the original person!  Bad behavior patterns can often run in groups - especially within families.

(And yes, I do know that my relationship with my mother is probably a lovely example of this.  I'm trying to walk a delicate balance between asserting myself enough to not be driven crazy, and keeping the peace for the sake of my elderly grandparents.  It doesn't always work very well.)
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Possum on April 10, 2013, 07:49:42 PM
There is only one "magic word" I know of, and I was quizzed on it plenty as a kid:

"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"May I please have a cookie?"

 ;D
In high school, at the start of the year, when we asked for something, our Physics teacher would ask us what the magic word was.  We, of course, said "Please," and he said that was wrong, but he'd help us anyway.  It became clear that he was a laid back guy, liked to joke, and that he had some crazy "magic word" we needed to figure out.  It took a few days, but we finally discovered his magic word was "NOW!"  Not "Now?"  Not "Now, please."  But a resounding, "NOW!"  :D

He was super fun, and let us do that all year long.  And of course, he still responded to "Please." :D
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: GratefulMaria on April 10, 2013, 10:36:16 PM
Some of the best advice I've gotten here has been "agree to disagree" phrasing.  It's such a relief to have civil ways to say it doesn't matter to me what someone else thinks or likes about a decision that's mine to make.  I don't feel as though I've sold out, and I don't use my tongue as a weapon on somebody needy and insecure -- truly magic.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: sammycat on April 11, 2013, 01:28:37 AM
One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours.

Very true.

When DS was young, we were part of a playgroup that included Jack. To put it bluntly (and nicely), Jack was (and still is) a little snot, but for some reason I tended to think my DS was at fault a lot of the time.  My sister came along a few times and one day pointed out that Jack was reacting abnormally to a normal set of circumstance (and not just in relation to my DS, but the other group kids as well). 

Once I realised/acknowledged that I was able to stop reacting negatively to what was very normal behavior by DS (and the other kids) and let Jack stew in his own juices over the way he was behaving. It was very liberating.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: TurtleDove on April 11, 2013, 06:36:08 AM
I know that it hurts when a stranger comments on weight, or parenting or appearance or anything, but you have to ask yourself "why do I care what that person feels?" Make sure that when you're looking for the magic words, you're looking for the right reasons. Don't waste your time trying to placate someone whose opinion, in the long run, shouldn't matter at all.

Great post, especially this. When I am criticized, I will consider what was said, but unless there is some reason I should value the other person's opinion over my own, I can easily take ownership of what I believe and behave accordingly.

I also suggest being "blissful and stupid," which means to blissfully assume that other people are not out to get you, even if it seems clear they are looking for a fight.  If they truly are not out to get you, then you haven't wasted time worrying about it. And if they ARE out to get you, letting them see it didn't work allows you to win.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: scotcat60 on April 11, 2013, 07:34:08 AM
"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"

Er...Abracadabra?
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: TootsNYC on April 11, 2013, 07:40:25 AM
 
Some of the best advice I've gotten here has been "agree to disagree" phrasing.  It's such a relief to have civil ways to say it doesn't matter to me what someone else thinks or likes about a decision that's mine to make.  I don't feel as though I've sold out, and I don't use my tongue as a weapon on somebody needy and insecure -- truly magic.
This is important as well.

It's important to stop trying to get other people to *agree* with you. They're entitled to have a different opinion; to want something different in the situation or relationship.

This does not mean you are obligated to provide them with what they want.

But you *ARE* obligated to stop trying to force them to accommodate YOU.

Just  let them be them. And you be you.
And don't worry that you disagree. It's fine. Just move on.


Then there's the "Charlie Brown adults" thing--they can say all they way to you about what they think you should do, feel, etc. You don't have to DO anything about it. Just let them blabber on, like the adults in those films: "wah wah wah, wah-wah-wah."

And I love, love "blissful and stupid." ("blissfully stupid"?)
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Winterlight on April 11, 2013, 10:02:41 AM
"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"

Er...Abracadabra?

"Accio cookie!"
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: LadyDyani on April 11, 2013, 12:23:43 PM
"Accio cookie!"

If a little one said that, I would give them the cookie, probably while giggling madly.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 11, 2013, 12:31:17 PM
Totally, totally agree.

So many people use getting upset as a way of controlling those around them. Leaving people with the choice to always knuckle under or risk the temper tantrum.

Once I started letting the temper tantrums roll, my life became happier, because I was doing what I wanted, and not bowing to the wishes of others.

It took a good 15 years after moving away from home for me to realize that *I* was not making my father upset; he was making himself upset. My actions were perfectly normal. I behaved the same way I did at home as I did elsewhere. Only at home was there yelling and fist pounding and sulking.

I have to say this. When you've grown up being told that you are the cause of someone's temper tantrums and sulks, it can take years until you realize that other people like you. That you don't have to constantly apologize, or worry about their feelings before yours, or brace yourself for being yelled at.

But once you reach that point, when you know you aren't doing anything wrong, and you do what you want and let the temper tantrums fall where they may, it is a very freeing feeling.

Are you me?  I swear, I could have written that post as well!  I always got "Well if you didn't do this, your father wouldn't lose his temper!" I'll grant you, I was likely not the easiest kid and I'm sure I frustrated them by being a C student when they were convinced I could pull straight A's though I'd never done so in my life. 

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: scotcat60 on April 12, 2013, 02:25:11 PM

"Accio cookie!"

If a little one said that, I would give them the cookie, probably while giggling madly.

Me too!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: bah12 on April 12, 2013, 02:43:00 PM
I totally agree Artk2002.

Unreasonable adults are a lot like toddlers...and that is unreasonable.  What makes these people difficult to deal with is you can't use logic, reason, and understanding to get a point across.  And just like a toddler, if you give them a lollipop every time they throw a tantrum, all they learn is to continue to throw tantrums.
In the long run, it's usually better to just confront someone and deal with the fallout once vs. putting up with the behavior over and over again (yet, a do agree that sometimes the issue isn't worth the effort).

Also, it does seem that our natural tendancy is to try to placate people and make sure that at the end of the day this person still likes us.  Yet, I think it's totally ok to have the mindset of "I don't care if you don't like me, because you aren't worth the trouble."
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: reflection5 on April 12, 2013, 03:39:04 PM
Quote
it does seem that our natural tendancy is to try to placate people and make sure that at the end of the day this person still likes us. 

Yes, true.  Or that everything will still be “nice” and warm and fuzzy, and everybody can all smile and feel okay. 

"So, please help me, ehell, and let me know a polite way to make this person stop the bad behavior because I can’t do it by myself and I don’t want the person to be mad at me."

 :-\

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 12, 2013, 03:56:23 PM
I'm reminded of some wise advice a friend gave me, that there is no arguing with an emotional toddler. 
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: TootsNYC on April 12, 2013, 04:12:29 PM
Here's a set of magic words:

"She'll get over it. That, or she'll die mad."

If someone genuinely loves you, they'll get over it. Honestly, will your mom disown you?
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: JeseC on April 12, 2013, 04:22:57 PM
Quote
it does seem that our natural tendancy is to try to placate people and make sure that at the end of the day this person still likes us. 

Yes, true.  Or that everything will still be “nice” and warm and fuzzy, and everybody can all smile and feel okay. 

"So, please help me, ehell, and let me know a polite way to make this person stop the bad behavior because I can’t do it by myself and I don’t want the person to be mad at me."

 :-\

It doesn't help that, for many of us (especially with family), the ire is going to fall on the person who's seen as causing the disruption, often for "not being nice."  How many times has my father taken me aside quietly and said if I were just nicer and politer to my mother she wouldn't get upset and throw tantrums so often?  Or for us young ladies, if you had just been a bit nicer and flirted a little instead of saying no that guy wouldn't have called you a female dog.  There's often a lot of external pressure to blame the person who triggered the outburst for not being nice enough, because we're the ones people can control!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Allyson on April 13, 2013, 12:47:55 PM

I also suggest being "blissful and stupid," which means to blissfully assume that other people are not out to get you, even if it seems clear they are looking for a fight.  If they truly are not out to get you, then you haven't wasted time worrying about it. And if they ARE out to get you, letting them see it didn't work allows you to win.

Yes! 'Never assume malice what is explained by stupidity' is one of my favourite phrases here. It really helped me at work, where there was constant drama and weird vibes going on. If I just acted like I didn't notice someone was giving me the 'silent treatment' for a perceived slight, it made things much more peaceful for me. It's easier said than done when it's someone I care about, but I try to never respond to what I 'think' someone means.

I think that trying to figure out the meaning of someone's behaviour is a fruitless and frustrating exercise. I take people at their words as much as I can. If someone gets upset because they said 'oh, I don't feel like going out tonight...' when they mean 'convince me you want me to be there' well, maybe next time they'll just say yes in the first place! I think if people started taking the first 'no' as the final word, people would say 'no' when they mean 'yes' far less!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: mmswm on April 13, 2013, 01:11:20 PM
"Accio cookie!"

If a little one said that, I would give them the cookie, probably while giggling madly.

Does a 10 year old count as "little"?  My youngest one says this rather frequently.  His other favorite phrase is "Go, Go, Gadget Arms!" if something is too far away for him to reach from where he's sitting (on his bad days, he has a very difficult time moving around).  I have an old set of DVD's of the original "Inspector Gadget" series and he loves them.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: reflection5 on April 13, 2013, 03:45:12 PM
Quote
I think that trying to figure out the meaning of someone's behaviour is a fruitless and frustrating exercise.

So true.  Many people play the mind game "I'm mad at you, but you're gonna have to figure out why and think of a way to fix it".  That is such nonsense.

Too much time is spent wondering, analyzing, and essentially catering to another person's mind game.

If you're upset, tell me why.  Maybe I did somehting wrong; we can talk about it and try to work it out.  Otherwise. we need to move on (and that might mean no longer having a relationship).
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: camlan on April 15, 2013, 07:42:54 AM
Quote
it does seem that our natural tendancy is to try to placate people and make sure that at the end of the day this person still likes us. 

Yes, true.  Or that everything will still be “nice” and warm and fuzzy, and everybody can all smile and feel okay. 

"So, please help me, ehell, and let me know a polite way to make this person stop the bad behavior because I can’t do it by myself and I don’t want the person to be mad at me."

 :-\

It doesn't help that, for many of us (especially with family), the ire is going to fall on the person who's seen as causing the disruption, often for "not being nice."  How many times has my father taken me aside quietly and said if I were just nicer and politer to my mother she wouldn't get upset and throw tantrums so often?  Or for us young ladies, if you had just been a bit nicer and flirted a little instead of saying no that guy wouldn't have called you a female dog.  There's often a lot of external pressure to blame the person who triggered the outburst for not being nice enough, because we're the ones people can control!

Sadly, this is true. When I first started standing up to my father, he'd tantrum. And everyone else in the family would turn on me, "Look what you did! You got Dad all upset! You've ruined Christmas/the birthday party/dinner."

But by that point, I had had it with always being blamed for everything that went wrong. "No," I'd reply, "Dad is making himself upset." No one knew how to handle me, once I simply and flatly refused to take the blame for Dad's temper tantrums. I remember telling a few people, "You know, Dad's reaction is not normal. Normal people do not turn red in the face and scream for 15 minutes because their adult child can't leave work in the middle of the day to drive them to the store with no prior notice. Normal people do not sulk for two days because someone didn't like the way they cooked the green beans last Sunday. I'm not being mean to Dad. But I am being realistic here. He's the one with the problem, not me. And I can't fix it for him. No one can but Dad himself."

If you've grown up in a house where everyone walks on tip-toes around one person, where the family watchword is "Don't get Dad/Grandma/Aunt Susie upset. You know what will happen," it's very, very difficult to break training and just let that person get upset. It's very hard the first couple of times, and the blame from the rest of the family doesn't help. But it goes a long way to developing a nice, sturdy, shiny spine.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: reflection5 on April 15, 2013, 09:04:55 AM
Quote
If you've grown up in a house where everyone walks on tip-toes around one person, where the family watchword is "Don't get Dad/Grandma/Aunt Susie upset. You know what will happen," it's very, very difficult to break training and just let that person get upset. It's very hard the first couple of times, and the blame from the rest of the family doesn't help. But it goes a long way to developing a nice, sturdy, shiny spine.

Good post, Camlan.  My father was not a screamer and he didn’t exactly throw tantrums.  Instead, he controlled everyone with the silent treatment and long stares.  Everyone walked on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Often this was in the form of canceling a family outing or somehow spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of an otherwise nice day or an entire event.  When I got older and stood up to him, people cringed because no one wanted to make him mad.  But my position was that he could just stay mad and be miserable – which he often did for long periods of time.  However, since we were grown and no longer lived with him he couldn’t inflict his misery and head games on others.  Long periods of not hearing from him was often a relief.

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: PastryGoddess on April 15, 2013, 12:42:22 PM
Here's a set of magic words:

"She'll get over it. That, or she'll die mad."

If someone genuinely loves you, they'll get over it. Honestly, will your mom disown you?

And if your mom does disown you, that may not be such a bad thing after all.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: JeseC on April 15, 2013, 01:55:02 PM
If you've grown up in a house where everyone walks on tip-toes around one person, where the family watchword is "Don't get Dad/Grandma/Aunt Susie upset. You know what will happen," it's very, very difficult to break training and just let that person get upset. It's very hard the first couple of times, and the blame from the rest of the family doesn't help. But it goes a long way to developing a nice, sturdy, shiny spine.

If it's anything like my family, family members who weren't there will most likely have been treated to an exaggerated version in which the problem family member is an innocent martyr.  For example, if you remove yourself from a conversation in which the problem family member was rudely attacking you over a choice, you'll later have another member coming up and saying "She told me that she just asked you why you made that choice, and you got mad at her and stormed off!  I can't believe you'd treat her that way!"  Never mind that her "just asking" consisted of yelling about how you're a terrible person and she can't understand how anyone would ever make the choice you did.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: reflection5 on April 15, 2013, 02:02:10 PM
Quote
you'll later have another member coming up and saying "She told me that she just asked you why you made that choice, and you got mad at her and stormed off!  I can't believe you'd treat her that way!" 
Yes, uninformed busybody relatives who make judgments and stick their noses in situations which are none of their business.  UGH. >:(  I've had to distance myself from a few, after setting them straight.  Never goes over well. 
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: VorFemme on April 15, 2013, 05:23:39 PM
Sadly, magic does NOT work in this universe.

The only words that come close to working are the ones someone mentioned above about, "they'll either get over it or die angry (mad)". 

Sometimes those words only work if you are willing to walk away from the situation for as long as it takes for them to get over it.....which can be years in extreme cases.

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 15, 2013, 06:32:14 PM
I remember the last time I stood up to my father, I was shaking like a leaf for about 5 minutes afterwards but then didn't hear from him or my mother for 2 months...the most peaceful 2 months I'd had since Dh and I moved back to Maryland and I decided I rather enjoyed it. 
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Minmom3 on April 15, 2013, 11:53:29 PM
I've had 2 times in my life when I didn't hear from my mother, and YES, they were peaceful indeed. 

The summer I was 19 years old, I left to go work up in the mountains at a resort.  In doing that, I also moved out of Mom's apartment, and into a boyfriend's apartment.  Mom pitched a truly royal fit.  When I left anyway, she wrote me a vituperative and ugly letter, which I ignored.  A month letter, I got a letter firmly chastising me for rude behavior, which I ignored.  Over a month after that, I got a nice letter, which I answered.  But all that time, I got and gave no phone calls, and THAT was the peace I needed. 

Many years later, after I was married with children, Mom demanded that I, or failing that, a friend of hers, do a lot of driving around (easily 4+ hours...) on Christmas Day to get Mom from friends house to my IL's house, where we would be that day.  I refused to do it, told her she was being selfish in the extreme, and that we would rent her a car so she could drive herself and not impose on anybody else that day.  She took GRAVE offense at being told she was selfish, and told me she wouldn't see me on Christmas if I was going to behave that way, and hung up!  I didn't hear from her for 6 months or more.

There's a lot more to it than that, but that was the start of about 15 years where I saw my mother no more than 2 times a year, if that.  It didn't really resolve itself until we discovered she had the beginnings of dementia and could no longer live alone.  For decades before that, she was a bitter old lady who caused scenes at family events to get her way, read everybody the riot act when she thought they misbehaved, (which only meant they didn't give in to her and her demands) and churned through friends at a rapid rate as she burned through them.  None of the greater family will have anything to do with her.  It's a sad way to live.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 16, 2013, 10:58:06 AM
My father was somewhat similar. I don't remember him punching holes in walls, but I do remember him throwing things, sometimes plates.  And it didn't take much to set him off either, it could even be an issue of semantics.   If you didn't read his mind and give him the answer he wanted with the exact words he wanted to hear.

Doing homework with him was a nightmare, I was so afraid of giving the wrong answer that I'd sit there like an idiot not giving any answer, even the right one. 

As I told MIL a couple months ago, the thing that attracted me to DH the most was his patience.  I have never seen the man lose his temper. Get mad? Sure, but there is no walking on eggshells around him.  I remember in college I asked him to help me to understand something and he was so patient and when I showed I didn't get it still he didn't fly off the handle, just took another tact in explaining it.

Now, I will admit I have a temper but I have learned to keep it in check.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: gellchom on April 16, 2013, 01:58:51 PM
We never called "please" the "magic word" with our kidz because ... it wasn't!  An 8-year-old can say "please" all day, but I'm still not going to let her drive.   :)

We just made it habit: "Would you like some juice?  Yes please or no thank you?"
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 16, 2013, 04:01:53 PM
This reminds me of what Gru says in Despicable Me.  "The appearance of the 'please' makes no difference."
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: JeseC on April 16, 2013, 04:17:06 PM
We never called "please" the "magic word" with our kidz because ... it wasn't!  An 8-year-old can say "please" all day, but I'm still not going to let her drive.   :)

We just made it habit: "Would you like some juice?  Yes please or no thank you?"

I actually saw a (50+ years of age) uncle of mine try this.  He was incredibly put out because he "asked nicely" and didn't get what he wanted from another adult.  Needless to say this impressed no one.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: violinp on April 16, 2013, 04:19:56 PM
I know this feeling of wanting words to just make someone stop being rude or mean without drama. Both sets of my grandparents had/has their own sets of issues, and my parents have spent years trying to placate them. I stopped trying once I became an adult. I didn't become as rude as my grandparents, mind - I still maintained my politeness. But, I just didn't care if what I said angered them or upset them. I just didn't care any more. Then again, someone telling you that your college professors should hit you in the face every time your verbal tics come out tends to make you stop caring what that person has to say about you.  >:(

My dad has told me several times that family is an obligation, and every time, I think, "No, it's not. I don't have to do anything for my family. I do things for my loved ones because I love them and I want to show them how much I love them." For me, seeing your family as a mere obligation is a sad and horrible way to live. If someone doesn't want to be a decent person to me, then I don't want them in my life, no matter how closely related they are to me.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 16, 2013, 06:15:05 PM
I agree, and the more I hear people pull the "but they're faaaaaaamily" card I want to snatch it and rip it up before feeding it to our four legged whiskered vacuum cleaner.  That or when I hear the line fed to childfree folks "But who's going to take care of you when you're old and sick?"  ::)

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: VorFemme on April 16, 2013, 06:40:08 PM
I agree, and the more I hear people pull the "but they're faaaaaaamily" card I want to snatch it and rip it up before feeding it to our four legged whiskered vacuum cleaner.  That or when I hear the line fed to childfree folks "But who's going to take care of you when you're old and sick?"  ::)


Come to think of it, I think the one about "who is going to pick out the retirement home you end up in?" is a better question.

Do you want someone who cares whether or not you're happy & comfortable or do you want someone who just wants to get things "over with" so that they can stop dealing with the crazy old bat/coot and get back home.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 16, 2013, 07:09:03 PM
I agree, and the more I hear people pull the "but they're faaaaaaamily" card I want to snatch it and rip it up before feeding it to our four legged whiskered vacuum cleaner.  That or when I hear the line fed to childfree folks "But who's going to take care of you when you're old and sick?"  ::)


Come to think of it, I like the one about "who is going to pick out the retirement home you end up in?" is a better question.

Do you want someone who cares whether or not you're happy & comfortable or do you want someone who just wants to get things "over with" so that they can stop dealing with the crazy old bat/coot and get back home.

Yeah I always liked that phrase, "be nice to your kids, they'll pick out your nursing home." :)
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: weeblewobble on May 17, 2013, 08:30:40 AM
My mom tries to use the "FAAAAAMILY" excuse on me and it does not fly.  My uncle posted something really mean spirited on my Facebook page the other day.  I was talking to my mom about the fact that was I defriending him and she said, "You can't do that. Yes, he's a jerk, but he's family."

To which I responded, "FAMILY is supposed to treat you BETTER than strangers on the street, not worse."  And clicked defriend anyway. 
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Redneck Gravy on May 17, 2013, 09:03:03 AM
Recently my SIL & sister got into a discussion about me and my brother, my sister's exact words were, "he should treat me better, I am his FULL sister and she's not..."

My SIL replied, "your both human, why should one of you be treated better than the other?"

I think this sums it up in our family, our sister is entitled and selfish, she feels like she should be treated better because....   

And our mother enabled this thinking and this behavior.   

I can't tell you all how much I love this board.  I have learned new ways to express myself politely, deflect others politely and/or just walk away.  I have also heard horror stories of other dysfunctional families that make our family look nearly normal, I am shocked at the stories of other families and yet I can totally relate.

And I have gotten to share my own horror stories. 
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: CreteGirl on June 26, 2014, 02:17:29 PM
What a great thread!  Thanks for posting the link in the other thread, ArtK!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Pioneer on June 27, 2014, 08:43:34 AM
No comment; just bookmarking for future reference.  Thank you, ArtK.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Twik on June 27, 2014, 09:22:20 AM
Yeah I always liked that phrase, "be nice to your kids, they'll pick out your nursing home." :)

Unfortunately, in my mother's case, I wasn't able to, because the government does.  :'( But the thought's the same.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Hollanda on June 27, 2014, 10:16:55 AM
Problem with me is, this.
 
Person asks me unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Me: Erm, maybe...I don't know...I...I...
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Me: But I don't have time to do it (more like I don't want to do it, even if I did have time for it).
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person.
 
I end up doing whatever favour and rushing about on my day off work which is supposed to be spent doing Nice Things with DS, and I end up resentful and seething inside towards this person I really, really didn't want to do this thing for.
 
Usually, it's meeting up with my mother who (as you may recall) I have not always had the easiest of relationships with.  This ebbs and flows - sometimes we're great together, sometimes we'd kill each other, but that is the nature of the beast and I have made peace with that.  It is my own lack of spine that drives me mad.
 
I put the phone down and what pops into my head??
 
I am sorry, but that is not possible.
 
I fume with myself, really I do!! The magic words are there, to me...I just never remember them until I don't need the magic any more.   :(
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: PastryGoddess on June 27, 2014, 11:57:45 AM
Problem with me is, this.
 
Person asks me unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Me: Erm, maybe...I don't know...I...I...
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Me: But I don't have time to do it (more like I don't want to do it, even if I did have time for it).
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person.
 
I end up doing whatever favour and rushing about on my day off work which is supposed to be spent doing Nice Things with DS, and I end up resentful and seething inside towards this person I really, really didn't want to do this thing for.
 
Usually, it's meeting up with my mother who (as you may recall) I have not always had the easiest of relationships with.  This ebbs and flows - sometimes we're great together, sometimes we'd kill each other, but that is the nature of the beast and I have made peace with that.  It is my own lack of spine that drives me mad.
 
I put the phone down and what pops into my head??
 
I am sorry, but that is not possible.
 
I fume with myself, really I do!! The magic words are there, to me...I just never remember them until I don't need the magic any more.   :(

There are no magic words :)  That is the point of this post.  However, you are falling into the trap of JADE'ing.  Just because someone asks you to do something doesn't mean they need answer immediately.   

A better strategy would be to let said person know that you have to check and will get back to them.  And then end the conversation every single time.   so the conversation could look like this:

Person asks Hollanda unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you *hangs up*/*walks away*
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Wordgeek on July 14, 2015, 04:19:50 PM
Just set this to sticky, cuz it's awesome.  A great thread.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: MrTango on July 14, 2015, 04:23:15 PM
Just set this to sticky, cuz it's awesome.  A great thread.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: bridalviolet on July 14, 2015, 04:31:42 PM
Here's a set of magic words:

"She'll get over it. That, or she'll die mad."

If someone genuinely loves you, they'll get over it. Honestly, will your mom disown you?

My aunt used to say, "They can get glad in the same pants they got mad in."
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: artk2002 on July 14, 2015, 05:17:05 PM
Thanks!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Wordgeek on July 14, 2015, 05:51:23 PM
Heh.

I started thinking about this thread because I'm dealing with a no-magic-words situation.  Convo basically went as follows:

Person:  I want impossible things!
Me:  That's impossible.  Figure it out.
Person: You're impossible!
Me: That isn't figuring it out.

Ah, well.  Life goes on.

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: artk2002 on July 14, 2015, 10:23:20 PM
It sounds like "Person" is the one looking for magic words!
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Wordgeek on July 15, 2015, 09:30:24 AM
Or for magic itself. I really don't get it.

Person's major complaint is that I did not communicate with them about a situation with another family member.  This is true. There is a situation, of which I have significant knowledge, that I did not discuss with them. Why not? Because Person cut off contact with me.  Person has me blocked on Facebook due to my perfidities, and has refused contact via other methods of communication.  But I'm supposed to somehow have made a conversation happen on this specific topic?

If you don't want to talk to me, we won't talk. How is that difficult to understand?
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: ladyknight1 on July 15, 2015, 11:29:52 AM
Quote
If you've grown up in a house where everyone walks on tip-toes around one person, where the family watchword is "Don't get Dad/Grandma/Aunt Susie upset. You know what will happen," it's very, very difficult to break training and just let that person get upset. It's very hard the first couple of times, and the blame from the rest of the family doesn't help. But it goes a long way to developing a nice, sturdy, shiny spine.

Good post, Camlan.  My father was not a screamer and he didn’t exactly throw tantrums.  Instead, he controlled everyone with the silent treatment and long stares.  Everyone walked on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Often this was in the form of canceling a family outing or somehow spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of an otherwise nice day or an entire event.  When I got older and stood up to him, people cringed because no one wanted to make him mad.  But my position was that he could just stay mad and be miserable – which he often did for long periods of time.  However, since we were grown and no longer lived with him he couldn’t inflict his misery and head games on others.  Long periods of not hearing from him was often a relief.

Both my mother and father are prone to passive aggressive usage of the silent treatment or tantrums, depending on the occasion.

If my mother doesn't want to do something or has something not go the way she expects, she actually pouts and will reply to inquiries as to the issue with "nothing" and a huff.
My father doesn't want to do something, he won't say it, but he will refuse to get out of the car or refuse to go.

I, my oldest sister and our DH's have figured this out. We ignore the PA behavior. We're planning a joint trip next year and already working on preemptively resolving these issues.

My dad's major issue is he expects everyone to go along with his plan and to not deviate. We're all adults, the youngest is 44.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Chez Miriam on July 15, 2015, 11:43:44 AM
Problem with me is, this.
 
Person asks me unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Me: Erm, maybe...I don't know...I...I...
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Me: But I don't have time to do it (more like I don't want to do it, even if I did have time for it).
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person.
 
I end up doing whatever favour and rushing about on my day off work which is supposed to be spent doing Nice Things with DS, and I end up resentful and seething inside towards this person I really, really didn't want to do this thing for.
 
Usually, it's meeting up with my mother who (as you may recall) I have not always had the easiest of relationships with.  This ebbs and flows - sometimes we're great together, sometimes we'd kill each other, but that is the nature of the beast and I have made peace with that.  It is my own lack of spine that drives me mad.
 
I put the phone down and what pops into my head??
 
I am sorry, but that is not possible.
 
I fume with myself, really I do!! The magic words are there, to me...I just never remember them until I don't need the magic any more.   :(

There are no magic words :)  That is the point of this post.  However, you are falling into the trap of JADE'ing.  Just because someone asks you to do something doesn't mean they need answer immediately.   

A better strategy would be to let said person know that you have to check and will get back to them.  And then end the conversation every single time.   so the conversation could look like this:

Person asks Hollanda unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you *hangs up*/*walks away*
This is my favourite delaying tactic [while I go off and search for where I left my spine], and bizarrely if someone pushes is more than a couple of times I find I can sometimes say "you can have a 'no' now, or you can let me check if I can manage to do that; your choice" and have no problems refusing just because they pushed.

Adding another big "thank you" to ArtK2002 for posting this.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: ladyknight1 on July 15, 2015, 12:11:25 PM
A few former friends who have no interest in me or my life but raise Cain if I don't personally contact them when something happens regarding people they know (mutual friends or my family) or people they don't know! I haven't heard from you in years, except for a business offer from them, they aren't going to be on the top of my list for contact.

FF: What happened to mutual friend?
Me: He had a massive medical issue.
FF: Why didn't you call me?
Me: I haven't talked to you in years. Why would i have your phone number?
FF: Well, we were very close to mutual friend.
Me: Yes, it's sad to lose him.

Side note: They hadn't seen or communicated with mutual friend in a decade. He tried to call them or make arrangements to see them and they never responded, so he stopped like we did. How close can you be to someone you have had no contact with for a decade?
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Outdoor Girl on July 15, 2015, 12:30:54 PM
I've used the 'She'll get over it or die mad' line with my BF.  His daughter (adult) is siding with her mother in the separation/divorce process without actually talking to him and getting his side of the story.  And was mad when he hadn't called her.  Since the only number he had for her was the house and he really didn't want to talk to his ex, exactly how was he supposed to do that?  He did risk it on her birthday.  He finally managed to get her cell number and sent her a text.  And it's been *crickets* ever since.  I feel so badly for him.

Though there was one blow-up after that (I wasn't there).  Where she screamed at him that he would never walk her down the aisle.  While he was upset, he told me later, with humour, that one of his first thoughts after that was 'Good!  That means I don't have to pay for it!'  He didn't say that, fortunately.

eHell has taught me a lot.  I entered into this relationship very unsure of whether or not I could be compatible with someone in my space, since I'd been alone so long.  The things I've learned here have helped me communicate with him and discuss things that are bugging me rationally and with minimal emotion so we can hash out a solution that works for both of us.  Sure, there is always compromise, but it's working.  The other big realization is that I can't expect him to just do something without being asked.  He doesn't know my routine.  I learned to just ask him, 'Could you do [this] for me while I do [other thing], please?'
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: gellchom on July 15, 2015, 12:37:05 PM
Problem with me is, this.
 
Person asks me unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Me: Erm, maybe...I don't know...I...I...
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Me: But I don't have time to do it (more like I don't want to do it, even if I did have time for it).
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person.
 
I end up doing whatever favour and rushing about on my day off work which is supposed to be spent doing Nice Things with DS, and I end up resentful and seething inside towards this person I really, really didn't want to do this thing for.
 
Usually, it's meeting up with my mother who (as you may recall) I have not always had the easiest of relationships with.  This ebbs and flows - sometimes we're great together, sometimes we'd kill each other, but that is the nature of the beast and I have made peace with that.  It is my own lack of spine that drives me mad.
 
I put the phone down and what pops into my head??
 
I am sorry, but that is not possible.
 
I fume with myself, really I do!! The magic words are there, to me...I just never remember them until I don't need the magic any more.   :(

There are no magic words :)  That is the point of this post.  However, you are falling into the trap of JADE'ing.  Just because someone asks you to do something doesn't mean they need answer immediately.   

A better strategy would be to let said person know that you have to check and will get back to them.  And then end the conversation every single time.   so the conversation could look like this:

Person asks Hollanda unreasonable, unfeasible request.
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you
Person: Well, look, it's not unreasonable, you're off work anyway.
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you
Person: If you do this for me, you save my life and you're a wonderful person
Hollanda: I'll have to check, I'll get back to you *hangs up*/*walks away*
This is my favourite delaying tactic [while I go off and search for where I left my spine], and bizarrely if someone pushes is more than a couple of times I find I can sometimes say "you can have a 'no' now, or you can let me check if I can manage to do that; your choice" and have no problems refusing just because they pushed.

Adding another big "thank you" to ArtK2002 for posting this.

This is great, but do make sure that at some point, in fact as promptly as possible, you do get back to them with a clear "no."  If they really do think that you are checking, then they can't make other plans.  I'm not saying not to do this; it may well be easier to get back to them when you can do it by email, text, or message so you don't have to have a conversation about it.  But do be clear and don't leave them hanging or expect them to figure out that you really meant no.

In other words, this is a perfectly reasonable way to deal with someone who won't take no for an answer without arguing about it.  But it's not okay to do this by way of hinting instead of saying no clearly, even if you hate to say no.

Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: RubyCat on July 15, 2015, 08:05:45 PM
The concept of Magic Words has been life changing for me, as well as "they'll get over it or die mad."  I come from a family that is dysfunctional and difficult. Even so, I still love them. Those two concepts have helped me navigate the uncharted waters of a rel@tionship that includes healthier boundaries. And I'm passing these concepts on to my adult children so that we can do better in the next generation. E-hell (and all of you) have played a huge part in this progress.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Chez Miriam on July 16, 2015, 12:29:27 PM
This is great, but do make sure that at some point, in fact as promptly as possible, you do get back to them with a clear "no."  If they really do think that you are checking, then they can't make other plans.  I'm not saying not to do this; it may well be easier to get back to them when you can do it by email, text, or message so you don't have to have a conversation about it.  But do be clear and don't leave them hanging or expect them to figure out that you really meant no.

In other words, this is a perfectly reasonable way to deal with someone who won't take no for an answer without arguing about it.  But it's not okay to do this by way of hinting instead of saying no clearly, even if you hate to say no.
Thanks for pointing that out, gellchom. - I should have thought to say that for me it's a girding-my-loins pause rather than what I understand is called ghosting [letting someone eventually work out *you're not interested by *your repeated failure to respond].

I only delay long enough to practise saying "no"/"that will not be possible" a few times [whilst reminding myself not to JADE] - or so that I can phone a reply to a face-to-face invite.  I should have made that clear.

I will put my hand up to phoning people back *even more* promptly if that means I'm sure I'll be speaking to their answering machine; cowardly, but I would hate to leave someone dangling, and it can avoid all sorts of awkward questions.
 ???


*All "you"s are general.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Redneck Gravy on July 27, 2015, 08:56:09 AM
The "get over it or die mad" is one of my favorites.

Another issue I have is having someone ask why someone else couldn't do whatever they were asked to do...If I ask someone to join a group of us for dinner and they say they are unable, I don't ask why.  Why would I? 

Some others ask what their excuse was, how would I know? I didn't ask for their justification.  (not just for dinner - for playing golf or tennis, attending the theatre/movie, whatever)  Really, it's none of my business, they might offer that they have other plans...but I don't ask for their excuse. Some seem to think there must be justification, I don't, sometimes I just don't want to do "whatever" and I just say I am unable.

   
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: jackie jormp jomp on September 05, 2015, 08:44:25 AM
With unreasonable people, I have learnt over time that a tilted head and an amused--nearly friendly--"come on now, you know better" face makes people smarten up more than words ever could.
Title: Re: Magic Words
Post by: Esther_bunny on January 18, 2017, 02:09:13 PM
I've been on this board for years but just now read this thread and couldn't agree more!

My mom used to get so mad when we were shopping and she'd pick out something for me and ask me if I liked it. More often than not I did not and this would make her mad.   Why ask me when she clearly thought I should say yes, not fathoming that I might say no b/c we have different taste in clothes?  I'm in my 40s and she has lightened up a little.  (In my teens she wanted me to dress conservative/preppy but I was a little goth/punk kid so the wardrobe choices were wildly different.)

Now she gets put off when she tries to give me her mother's things (glassware, pans, etc) and I say no. "But it was Mimi's (my grandmother), why don't you want it?"   Well mom, why don't you want it and besides it's not my taste. She was still trying this a couple of weeks ago.

I just let her be put off or whatever, I'm not taking stuff just because she gives it to me....that's called junk!

(Oh, she has given me some neat things over the years, a light up vintage Hamm's beer sign that's in my kitchen and some Viking ruby red drinking glasses but just b/c grandma had it means it was special/unique/worth handing down.)