Tell met about times that you were honest but kind
January 27, 2015 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I have only a vague idea of what honest-but-kind looks like in close relationships. I find it hard to imagine saying, "I like you, but I don't like that about you," without it coming across as a harsh rejection. Do you have examples of times that you were honest-but-kind? If it's something that you do well on a regular basis, what's the most important thing you're bringing to the interaction?

My parents were both practitioners of the adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." They didn't preach it; they just did it. At its best, it led to pleasant and peaceful coexistence, something which I still enjoy. At its worst, it led to years of unspoken resentment, something which I don't enjoy. Unlike general conversational skills, which can be picked up via observation in groups of people, honest-but-kind seems to mostly be done in private. As a result, it's a much harder skill to learn via casual observation of others. Thus I am interested in your stories. Thanks!
posted by clawsoon to Human Relations (27 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Say what you want to say with your arms around each other. Ask to help make the change (then help) or suggest an alternative based on a strength of theirs.
posted by michaelh at 7:53 AM on January 27, 2015

I find it hard to imagine saying, "I like you, but I don't like that about you," without it coming across as a harsh rejection.
Well, the framing you're using makes it harsh, to begin with. If you don't like what someone is doing, then possibly frame it another way. Not, "I don't like this about you," but, "When you do/say/act like X, it hurts me /affects me in this way." You're not rejecting parts of someone, you're letting them know that what they do affects you, which can lead to an open dialogue.
posted by xingcat at 7:56 AM on January 27, 2015 [26 favorites]

I think success here often depends on engaging in a way that you yourself are earnestly exposing your own vulnerabilities (rather than issuing judgement). For example, in a fight you might talk honestly about why X action is hurtful and why you need Y, rather than "You are such a jerk for doing X!".

Brene Brown's TED Talk and book are really good on this.
posted by susanvance at 7:58 AM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

In my experience, some people can't handle constructive criticism, and honest-but-kind is only going to get a defensive reaction from them. So my first piece of advice is to find a partner that is willing to play ball.

I'm a pretty put-it-all-out-there kind of person, and this is what works for me:

Don't have these kinds of conversations when you or your partner are already annoyed or agitated. It can wait until tomorrow.

As you already picked up, it's best to talk in private, because having your flaws pointed out is embarrassing!

Serious tone of voice, eye contact, state problem, move on. Include a solution if you have one in mind. Criticism sandwiches can help here e.g. "Honey, I love you, but you smell terrible after doing yard work. Take a shower and then we can snuggle."

Avoid "always" or overall judgement. Your conversational partner is on your team, and you're working towards a long term solution that will make both of your lives better. Saying "you're a slob who expects me to be the maid!" starts a fight. Saying "Hey, when you throw your socks on the floor, I'm the one that picks them up. Can we work on this?" starts a conversation.
posted by fermezporte at 8:04 AM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ok, I'm embarassed to quote Dr. Phil, but he used to always say (and probably still does), that when you say something then "But...." the part after the "but" is what you really mean. Thinking this over, I've found that it can be good practice in some situations to flip around your but. Instead of "Most of the time you make me feel really great, but stop doing that terrible thing." say "That terrible thing really bothers me, even though most of the time you make me feel really great." I mean it's not always a good idea. It can come off as patronizing ("I want to break up, but you're really a great person.") but it's worth considering as a framing option.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:06 AM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You have to know that no matter how much a place of love you come from, there will be times that someone is going to come away from the interaction angry or upset.

That said, if you are a kind person, people will know that about you and when you tell them about whatever it is that's bugging you, they know you're not trying to be mean or nasty.

Also, I find that addressing something right away, rather than waiting and holding onto it will result in faster resolution with minimal fuss.

For example: Let's say your friend flakes on you at the last minute, like you're sitting in the restaurant waiting for her to show up.

Her (via text): Don't hate me! I can't make it.
You: (via text): Dude! I'm here! I've been waiting for 15 minutes. I love you, but I'm annoyed.

Then order something, enjoy it, and move on. Remember the next time she suggests meeting you 'there' and insist that she pick you up, or you pick her up.

Another example: You've been cleaning for an hour and your roommate is sitting there eating yogurt.

You: Hey Phillipa, I know you had a big week, but if I finish the living room and the bathroom, will you do the kitchen? I'm cooking dinner tonight so it would need to be before five.
Her: Geez Clawsoon, I worked 60 hours last week and the last thing I want to do is clean the kitchen.
You: Well, it has to get done, and as you can see, I've done the rest of the house. If I clean it this week, will you do it next week? And I mean it, next week, like if you don't, you have to treat me to a facial.
Her: Fair enough, it's a deal.

You see how that is? Its a give and take, and an acceptance of meeting people where they are. It's negotiation and understanding.

Now, if you're talking to someone about something serious, like addiction or cheating, then it changes slightly.

You: Cally, I enjoy having dinner with you. The last time we went out you drank too much and got really mean. I'd love to have dinner with you, but if you plan on drinking, I'd like to give it a miss.

See how you state what the problem was, how it affected you, and offered an option. Now it's up to her to decide how to move forward.

Let's say Cally forgets your boundary about not drinking.

You: Cally, I told you that I didn't want to go out with you if you were drinking. I'm going to get my food to go.

Honor yourself.

It take practice, and it won't feel easy at first. Keep doing it though, it does get to be second nature.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:08 AM on January 27, 2015 [44 favorites]

I think the first step is to genuinely try to see things from the other person's perspective. Try to come up with the most generous possible explanation of the negative behavior you want to discuss. Then start the discussion by acknowledging that possibility. If you can spin it as a (sincere!) compliment, all the better. Then try to focus on how you can help the other person achieve their larger goal in a way that causes less of a problem for you. If you have a concrete suggestion to start with, all the better, but be sure to frame it as an example of a solution, rather than the One Non-Negotiable Thing They Absolutely Must Do.

As in, "You work so hard, you must be exhausted when you get back home at night. I don't blame you for just wanting to sit down and catch your breath for a while. The thing is, if you don't help me get dinner on the table, we end up staying up late, and then we're both even more tired the next day. Is there any way you can catch your breath for five minutes instead of fifteen? Or maybe do a chore that you could do sitting down, like chopping vegetables?"
posted by yankeefog at 8:09 AM on January 27, 2015

To me this is about owning your own feelings. Saying things like I'm tired or I'm unhappy even though that might be inconvenient. Saying I feel a bit overwhelmed and need some alone time. Or I get triggered and scared when you get angry at me. Or I felt unvalued when you were late meeting me. etc. The honesty is about communicating what's going on inside for you, rather than swallowing your feelings and putting up a front, which is what allows resentment to build up. You can't really tell someone to change, but you can tell them that something they are doing makes you uncomfortable or hurts you, communicate the consequences of their behavior, and give them a chance to choose to change.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:09 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think, to start with, it's not exactly "I like you, but I don't like that about you," because what's the other person supposed to do about that?

It's really about stating your boundaries or identifying something you see as a problem. "Hey, Night Owl Person, I have got to get more sleep, so do you think you could do your reading in the living room and use a flashlight to come to bed, or just go to sleep when I do?" "I feel like we probably need to re-work the budget."

It's more about asking for help and making suggestions as a team. "You're a lazy bastard" is almost never going to accomplish anything, but "can we figure out an equitable chore schedule" is opening a dialogue. And even when things are serious, you can still try to shape your language to discuss the issue at hand (I'm doing most of the housework and that appears to be fine with you) and what your next actions are going to be if there's not an improvement (and I will leave, because I'm not going to be treated as lesser in this relationship).

If you literally don't like someone, or cannot live with a fact of their personality or behavior if it does not change, you should leave, and there are certain things that are simply non-negotiable. You can't really ask someone to meet you in the middle and stop hitting you some of the time or steal fewer cars. But there are plenty of other mismatches in style or processing that you can work together to improve, and if you use language that is non-accusatory you're much more likely to be able to have the necessary conversations to make the change.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:10 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

On superficial issues like tastes and preferences:

A while back, I'd just gotten a new pair of Dansko clogs. When I came out wearing them and asked my boyfriend if he liked them, he said "Yeah! They look so comfortable!" Another time, I'd gotten a haircut that I wasn't too thrilled with, and he told me it was really "retro chic" and winked.

Basically, he thinks of some compliment that is actually true, and says that. It doesn't matter that he doesn't like my shoes (I love them and I'll never stop wearing chunky clogs); it matters that he cares enough to be tactful and find something positive.
posted by witchen at 8:11 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a friend who loved me (I know this), and I loved her, but she would cancel ANY plans we made 85% of the time, and she would ignore my calls for days at a time. I knew this wasn’t malicious, because she had social and phone anxiety, but at a certain point I knew that I needed to talk to her about it.

I eventually asked her if we could sit down and talk (suggestion 1: don’t bring it up at a random time, definitely not during a moment when you are actively irritated/upset). When we did, I told her that I completely understood how great it feels to cancel on plans and to ignore phone calls (suggestion 2: make it clear that you know a behavior is not rooted in malice), but that I really needed her to remember a few things about my perspective (suggestion 3: not claiming that the behavior is universally bad, but that I personally have specific negative reactions to it that I could use help managing).

I told her that there was something I wanted her to keep in mind: when she cancelled plans, she got to stay home with her husband and drink wine and watch movies and have fun, and that it sounded awesome and I totally understood why she might prefer that to going outside. But I wanted her to remember that when she cancelled on me, that meant I got to stay home alone and possibly not see anyone for the rest of the weekend because I thought I had made plans. (suggestion 4: give a glimpse of your personal perspective, where actions that might seem innocuous take on a different slant).

I also reminded her that I had a hard time for many years asking people to do things with me in the first place because of some formative experiences when I was young (suggestion 5: remind the person of shared history, hearken back to time when you were previously vulnerable with them and they offered support), and that a single cancellation is something I can cope with, but an ongoing pattern of it begins to make me feel as though I shouldn’t bother in the first place (suggestion 6: a single incident of most things is different from a series of those incidents, while recognizing that it might not feel like a pattern from the inside of the person doing it). I also explained that one of the times I had called and called was because something very upsetting had happened to me, and that I needed to feel like I would be able to reach her in a time of crisis (suggestion 7: emphasize the person’s importance to you).

We had a great talk. She cried a bit (felt bad she hadn’t realized the impact of her actions), I said I wasn’t mad (suggestion 8: don’t be mad, if possible), and that I knew she would never intentionally do anything to make me feel unwanted as a friend (suggestion 9: constantly reiterate suggestion 2 throughout the conversation), but that I needed her to remember my own issues while she was coping with her own.

Result: we felt closer, we developed workarounds, she took more initiative to set up plans herself, she double-checked with me before cancellation to make sure I was in an okay place to handle it (and trusted me to be honest in my response).

This is basically a best case scenario, but the little suggestions throughout are elements I involve in all of my difficult discussions, and they have proven helpful in much more difficult discussions with, um, much more difficult people.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:18 AM on January 27, 2015 [44 favorites]

For me I think about what's best in the long run, and that helps me suss out kindness. Like I know that it's best to be direct with people who are pursuing me romantically that I am not interested in. And I learned that because in the past I've waited and lead them on,not out of meanness but out of not wanting to hurt their feelings. I used to give a buildup of praise to soften the blow, but honestly that never seemed to make a difference. So now I try to stick to a simple but very very direct sentence (so no self-delusion is possible), ending on a positive but impersonal note of well-wishing. I think that kind of detachment and honesty is best in the long run.
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:19 AM on January 27, 2015

Best answer: I recommend people to be honest and kind in dating all the time, and in fact just used those exact words a couple questions down the page, so in case that is what you were reading and made you post this, this is what I mean:

Let's say you don't want to be with someone anymore because you don't find them attractive.

Honest: "I don't find you attractive, we should break up.

Kind: "I'm dealing with some personal stuff and can't be in a relationship right now, it's not you, it's me." *

Honest and kind: "I've really enjoyed getting to know you and I think you're great. For whatever reason I'm just not feeling the kind of connection I'd like to feel at this stage of a relationship, and I don't think we should continue to see each other."

*Personally I don't think it's very kind to be dishonest, I'm just pointing that out as a common way people think is a nice way to break up with someone.
posted by phunniemee at 8:32 AM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

"I like you, but I don't like that about you,"

Try to phrase it as something they are doing, not something they are. Keep it factual based on recent observations, not drawing conclusions or dredging things up from the past.

For example, "the movie started at 8 tonight, and you got here at 8:30."
Not "I like you, but you're always late."
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:34 AM on January 27, 2015

Kind: "I'm dealing with some personal stuff and can't be in a relationship right now, it's not you, it's me." *

This kind of "kindness" is the WORST (as phunniemee illustrates in that comment) because then when they're dating someone else you'll know it was you.
posted by zutalors! at 8:51 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My SO and I work on this. I can be snippy and irritable sometimes and usually that's just me working out some sort of anxiety or stress but it can make things between the two of us more fraught then they need to be. At the same time, me not "giving in" to my snippy or irritable feelings in the name of better harmony with my partner is a value I hold, so part of it is talking to myself "Hey jessamyn I know this thing drives you crazy but you're in this relationship for the long haul and you know it hurts your SOs feelings when you crab at him about a thing so the way to really show love is to mention it but downplay it so that you can move forward"

So "Hey thanks so much for doing the dishes but would you mind (alternative dish arrangement) so that I can unload them in a way that makes sense to me? Thanks." give them an opportunity to be helpful, not just tell them how they need to be different or worse, tell them what they are doing wrong without any sort of feedback on how to improve. My general feeling is that both partners should want, ultimately, to try to make small compromises in the name of relationship harmony. This is not something that may always be felt with family or with co-workers or others, so it's different in those situations. I break it down like

- I appreciate this thing generally
- I'd like this other thing as a part of that thing specifically
- if you could do that for $REASON I'd be grateful
- if not, let's talk about alternatives

Give both people a chance to be heard, give both people a chance to mutually appreciate each other, give reasons for why you'd like this from them. And then the last step is, if it seems like an intractable issue, let it go and come back another time to work on it. People can get stuck in weird "But when you said that I felt this" "But when you said that about me saying that it made me feel this" and then they have a metadiscussion and don't talk about the issue.

Also be realistic about the thing you don't like about the other person. Is it deal-breaker-level don't like if the person says "Well I cant change that" If so, make that clear. If not, be willing to compromise and live with some things you don't like or find a way to adjust it so it's not as much of an issue. Think "outside the box" and see if there's a way the two of you can get what you want even if it means alternative arrangements (you see this all the time with couples where one person snores or one person keeps crazy hours, maybe separate sleeping rooms means that the rest of the stuff works out)
posted by jessamyn at 10:10 AM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've been listening to the Judge John Hodgman podcast and he is really good at guiding people through honest but kind conflict negotiation. The podcast is like a comedy-but-real Judge Judy if Judge Judy really wanted everyone to come out feeling like they were heard and valued and can live with the judgement. I would really recommend the episode on home renovations (D-I-Why) for an example of a couple who is actually really good at this. Watch how they help each other argue their case and point out good things about each other while still advocating for their side.
posted by heatherann at 10:22 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Honest: 'Honey, your feet smell and are gross, please wash them."
Kind: "Hey hon, feeling up for a shower?"
Honest but kind: "Hey, do you think you could wash your feet so I could give you a foot rub? That makes it much nicer for me."
posted by corb at 10:22 AM on January 27, 2015

I find it helpful to take a step back and look at the broader picture and do some analysis of what part is them, what part is me, and what part is circumstance or other factors. So it's not even "I don't like that thing about you" it's "When I already am having X issue and you do Y, that's just too much to take. Most of the time, it's not a big deal that you do Y, but when you did Y the other day, I was already just having a really crappy day, I had reason to believe you KNEW that and you did Y anyway, which just seems really inconsiderate. So, if you didn't know that particular day was a particularly crappy day for me, I will try harder to let you know when I am having one of THOSE days and I would appreciate it if you would try to be considerate at such times. Most of the time, yeah, I don't really care. I understand you are a certain way and it's not actually bad that you are that way because here are situations where Y is a good thing (example a, b and c) but please just don't do that when {conditions under which I just can't deal with it}. "

Because it's usually not any one thing. It's usually a combination of my x and their y under z circumstances = Bad News. Most of the time, if you take away any of those factors, it's not a big deal. When I don't have x happening, their y is something I can be understanding of and that, hey, yeah, we all have our shortcomings and sometimes even my x plus their y is not so bad, but you throw z circumstance into the mix, and hooboy. So I try to be as specific as possible about when it's a problem and when it's not and I try hard to not make them feel simply vilified about y. Because most traits or habits are two edged swords, they aren't bad all the time. I try to acknowledge that there are circumstances under which y is actually an asset, but it isn't under z circumstances, especially when I have my x thing going on too.

So, for example, my oldest son can be really pigheaded and difficult to deal with and I sometimes just let him figure it out himself that, no, really, he messed up this time and I just sit down and say "Yeah, I will wait here until you are done checking it yourself." Me and my sons get along really well, so we are all three comfortable with jokingly saying that my oldest son is an asshole and it's his finest quality because that same pigheadedness and attention to detail and refusal to believe what other people say without evidence or whatever has been a huge asset to us on many, many occasions. So on the occasions when I am sure that, no, this time he is merely wrong and being a pain in the butt, I try to be patient with it. I try to remember the 1001 times that it was all to the good and if it isn't simply a catastrophe in the making, I wait for him to get it on his own instead of fighting with him. I do speak my mind and let him know that I think he is wrong and this is a problem, but then I let him check everything without grousing about it. (If it is a catastrophe in the making, I am much more committed to doing whatever it takes to avoid catastrophe. I have a very good relationship with my sons, so they generally understand when I feel strongly that this is a Really Bad Thing right now and Must Stop.)

So one thing I will add to some of the really excellent suggestions above is that it is really rare for a problem to be 100% X person's fault and if you will acknowledge that some percent is your doing and some percent is just circumstance or other factors, it will generally go over better to say "Okay, this last 40% is because of this thing you do, so please don't do that anymore." (Or at least don't do it under those circumstances.)

It's both nicer and more effective, because, if you have done a good analysis and figured out pretty closely what the contributing factors are, it avoids both scapegoating them (which people fight against, and rightly so) and giving them the easy out of saying "But it's NOT all my fault because of REASONS." If you have already acknowledged those other factors, it's both easier for them to swallow taking partial "blame" (responsibility) and harder for them to argue against and say "it's not my fault."
posted by Michele in California at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Michele in California, that sounds like a great response, but I have trouble with human relationship algebra abstractions so I'm not sure. :-) Could you give a second concrete example? Thanks!
posted by clawsoon at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: I.e. no x, y, a, b, c, {substitution variable}. :-)
posted by clawsoon at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2015

Best answer: Sure.

My oldest son is so bouncy and energetic, I put him in gymnastics as a kid to burn off some of that extra energy. The school said "put him on Ritalin." We already had ADHD ruled out, so my answer was "nope" and I enrolled him in gymnastics. When he is tired enough, he does sometimes sit still.

I also have health problems and sometimes I just can't take all that energy. So when he was a kid, he would sometimes get told "It's okay that you are all bouncy, but I can't take it today, so please don't bounce within 10 feet of me. Take it outside or to another room or something." He never got told "Being bouncy makes you a Bad Child." He just got told "there is a time and a place for that" and "Oh, mom has a headache and, ugh, this is especially crazy-making today because of that. So just give me my space."

He can be really crazy-making for a lot of people, but I have never told him that makes him bad. I have talked about how to find constructive outlets for his various tendencies. I have talked about how to get his needs met without stepping on other's toes. I have talked about how it isn't just him, it's also my health problems and so on. So when I was put on steroids and particularly grouchy as a medication side-effect, I made sure to explain that to him -- it's not very much you, it's mostly the medication I am on. So I made sure he understood that my reaction was outsized in comparison to how annoying he was being because of the medication. He knows that a lot of people find him just too much to deal with. But I have never told him it's all his fault. I have always told him it's a combination of things: Him plus them plus other factors.

He's a really neat person, but his most common memory of interacting with me when he was a kid was me face-palming or eye-rolling, because he really was quite the handful. But I never told him that made him bad. I just worked with him to find ways to express all the things he was without alienating absolutely the entire planet, including his mom. He is an adult now and still capable of making people crazy, but most people read him as "a nice, polite young man" -- assuming they don't have to deal with him too much. Because if there is friction, it quickly goes sour. He has a limited number of people close to him. That works for him. And he knows to basically tread lightly with most people, because he is just a lot to take. We laugh about it, but, yeah, lots of other people would strangle him if they had to work too closely with him.

I also had him several years sooner than I had intended to have kids. I thought long and hard about how I would be honest with him about that without making him feel unwanted. With thinking about it, I realized he wasn't actually unwanted. So he has long been told things like "I was just having a good time" or "You were unfashionably early" or "You were a surprise birthday present from the universe" (because he was born the day after I turned 22). So he knows I really intended to wait a few years to have kids, but I did want him, I just didn't feel quite ready to be a parent. But I always loved him and wanted him. I thought of it as "rescheduling" my life: Kids in the morning, career in the afternoon, instead of the other way around.

So with thinking about how to tell him that, I began the process of learning to think long and hard about what I really thought about something. He wasn't "unplanned" -- I planned to have kids with his dad, my ex-husband, I just planned to have them later -- and he wasn't "unwanted." He just showed up at an unexpected time. A lot of the mental models we have -- "unplanned pregnancy = accident = unwanted kid = bad thing" -- aren't always accurate to the actual situation we have.

It became habit to not be blamey or accusatory about stuff. Most kids are raised with either a blame model or a guilt model (you can look that up on Wikipedia) and most people are quick to look for someone to pin the blame on. But that's usually not even an accurate representation of life. Life is usually a lot more complicated than our black-and-white mental models of "if two people are having friction, one of them has to be to blame and must be A Bad Person." It's usually not even shades of grey. It's usually pretty Technicolor and I enjoy sussing out the multitude of fine distinctions to be made to accurately communicate with someone about something that went wrong. In many cases, there is no need to blame someone in particular as being bad.

I hope that's clearer. Apologies if it is not.
posted by Michele in California at 3:02 PM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

A lot of good advice here.

A slightly different aspect to think about, is to keep in mind that is it so very easy to slip into a mode of not mentioning the good stuff, and only speaking up when something is not so good. If that happens, all that others will hear from you is complaints [even if you phrase it as "I like you but..."].

So - make sure that you keep the "kind" part of you in peoples minds by showing them your appreciation of what is working well at least as much as you speak up about problems.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:31 PM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

I love this question.

I think it is strong and kind to acknowledge that when you are honest, the other person might not like you or what you are saying. For example, with a child, you might say, "Don't roll your eyes because/when you're annoyed with me." It makes it about the action, and more importantly, acknowledges that yes, sometimes we DO get annoyed with each other because we are people!!

It's helpful to me to know that sometimes a person is NOT liking what I'm doing. It is ok for us to not feel good about each other all the time. That doesn't change your relationships or that you love each other.
posted by ichomp at 9:15 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Two days ago, making out, my date grabs me by the shoulders and looks deep into my eyes.
"Babe, I love kissing your soft lips. I think you're sexy as hell. You make me swoon! But your breath is terrible."

Me, surprised and deeply offended: "Oh! Thanks for telling me. I'll fix that."

I jump up, brush and floss. We continue making out. I feel gross and embarrassed, but dammit I solved the problem and I'm gonna feel sexy and jump back on that horse!

The next day everything is still awful.

Me: "Hon, can we have a shade talk?" (That's when we reveal a feeling we've been keeping private.)

Her: "Yes of course! What's your shade?"

Me: "I know you didn't mean it this way, but I'm super sensitive to feeling hurt when it comes to hygiene. Or being turned away by physical touch. I feel gross. I need some nice words that say, 'I think you're a babe and I find you attractive.'"

Her: "Girl, I find you soooooo stupidly attractive! Of course you're a babe! I can never stop ogling you. I'm sorry I made you feel insecure about that, it was just a reaction to the smell. Like that time I was chewing that fruity gum and you couldn't kiss me, remember? From now on when I notice something attractive about you I will not hesitate to comment on it until you get tired of how frequently I say nice things about you. Like this morning, when you ruffled my hair I knew my baby was leaving and that I'd miss you so I made sure to get one more kiss from your lovely luscious lips and inhale your scent that drives me wild! Always have to be touching your curly mane as well, the way it falls down the side of your face is devastating. From the day I met you, your superbly witty, goofy brain won me over and also, how could I forget to mention, I always want to grab those rosy cheeks of yours — and I mean both sets of cheeks! Be proud of your magnificence!! You are a brilliant, majestic curly pony."

She then sends me a picture of a horse.
posted by fritillary at 4:12 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I have difficulty even imagining having that conversation, fritillary. Thanks for a great example that pushes the limits of what I thought possible!
posted by clawsoon at 5:45 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

The very best moment of our relationship as mother and daughter was when I finally explained to my mother that I think slow first thing in the morning. For three decades, we struggled because she is an early morning person and throughout my childhood and and young adulthood she would pepper me with questions, comments, and random shit within seconds of me waking up. Of course, I would respond to such a barrage of stimuli with grouchy mumbles, eyerolls, and general assholery.

As I got older I got better at functioning in the morning, but I still needed a little while to wake up before I could deal with human interaction. Around 30 I was home for a visit and mention how one of my good friends always wakes me up early when we travel and how I just get up and roll with it.

My mom was annoyed and she said something judgy along the lines of "OOooh you'll wake up nice for her but to me you're a monster."

Before I could respond to the implicit hostility in the statement, I started thinking about it. And then I wondered why my friend could wake me up and I wasn't evil. My significant other could wake me up and I wasn't awful. Why did my mom talking to me first thing in the morning bug so much?

So I told her. "I don't know Mom. I'll think about why there's a difference and let you know. I'm sorry I'm not cordial in the morning and I'll work on it." It stopped her and put a big pause on the cycle of sniping and bitching at each other that we usually got into.

The next morning, I stumble downstairs to a volley of questions and instead of grumbling, or being pissy, I calmed myself and told my mother, "Mom, the reason I'm grumpy is because my brain is still asleep. I know you're happy I'm awake and want to do stuff today, but if you could hold off for a few more minutes, I'll be able to process."

She said, "Sure, sure." And then proceeded to ask 5 questions in a row.

I stopped her and said, "Ma. 5 questions. 5"
She said, "I...but...oh."

From then on we've gotten way better about explaining why something frustrates us and giving the other space to figure it out. She waits until I'm halfway through a cup of coffee before she asks me any questions.
posted by teleri025 at 12:43 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

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