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Mindful : April 2014
68 mindful April 2014 Forget figuring out the right thing to say, close your mouth, and just listen instead. A friend of mine is a dynamic single mom. She’s busy (actually, over- whelmed doesn’t even begin to cover it) and she doesn’t demand much in the way of chores from her two teen- agers. Anything I can say to help? If your friend’s already overwhelmed, hearing your t wo cents may just over- whelm her more. Before you launch in, try to figure out what’s really bothering you. Is this concern for your friend’s stress? Or is it that her parenting style drives you nuts? Is there a little judg- mental voice whispering “bad mother,” “spoiled brats,” “I know better. You need to change and I’ll tell you how”? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether your opinion that she’s letting her kids be housework slouches is right or wrong. Unless you dump that judgmental edge, “helping ” your friend is only going to raise her hackles. Forget figuring out the right thing to say and practice being a listener. As you listen, you may be able to raise gentle questions to help your friend see her situation more clea rly, minus your pre- packaged solution. My new girlfriend has some pretty wild ideas when it comes to sex. I’m intrigued but not all that experienced. How do I get her to slow down? Is your girlf riend deliberately testing your adventurousness? Is she kicking the tires? Is it a get-with-the-program- or-get-out situation, or is there some leeway? You may never get a straight answer from her, and no one wants to feel pressured to go too fast or come off as a sexual dud. So figure out what you need, how far you’re willing to go, and what’s holding you back. Assuming you want to explore, only more slowly, you could entice her to take on the role of teacher. When she sees you’re not shutting down but willing to let her lead you gently toward the wild side, you might find some new erotic territory. She might then see that going more slowly isn’t just hesitation but a way to savor intensity, to let it build a nd heighten to a new level. Even though I’m flirtatious on social media and dating apps, when I meet people in person, I freeze. Help! You’re not alone in being a bit socially awkward when you’re meeting someone for the first time. But you’re lucky. You have flirting training wheels. Meeting potential partners from the comfort of your home, behind the safety of a screen, is a good wa rm-up for the real thing. Attitude mat ters here. Instead of focusing on how you freeze in real-life encounters, hone your flirting on social media a nd focus on your comfort there. And when you take off the training wheels a nd move into real-world dating, don’t hide your bashfulness—it’s who you are. Try breaking the ice by admitting you can be a little shy at first. Laying it out there might lessen the pressure for both you and your date. ● relationships in practice Illustration by Alessandro Gottardo Ask Ms. Mindful