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Mindful : June 2013
My brother and I used to be close but then lost touch. We’ve reconnected, which is great, but it’s always on his terms. I want to develop our relation- ship, but I’m frustrated. After a long gap, reconnecting can be awkward. It sounds like your brother is trying in his own way, so why not cut him some slack? It won’t help to get caught up in who has the upper hand here. If you want to develop this relationship update—sib- lings 2.0 —someone’s going to have to be more generous and patient. Why not you? Keep connecting. And instead of dwelling on the times he doesn’t respond in the way you’d like, take advantage of the times he does. This is a good oppor- tunity to work with your expectations— in particular, expecting other people to be the way we want them to be. What you would like to be happening is getting in the way of seeing what’s actually tak- ing place. Focus on the small openings to move forwa rd. My son-in-law is a good guy and good father, but he lacks life experience. He could use some now that he has children—my grandchildren. But giv- ing advice as a father-in-law is tricky. How can I help without causing problems? It’s a kick in the pants: when you could use a bit of life experience, you’re too young to have developed any. Now that you’re old enough to have life experience, no one wants to hear about it. You have good intentions here, but so what? Advice is only helpful when some- one asks for it. Otherwise, it comes off as a critique and stings. Here’s a good practice: when you have the urge to give advice, don’t . And repeat. You said your son-in-law is a good father. Tell him. Share stories of the quirky things that happened as you worked to be a good father. Face it, advice is dirt cheap and (grand) father doesn’t always know best. A gra ndparent’s ma in practice should focus on love a nd acceptance and being there when you’re needed. You were a good parent, you raised a good daughter, so trust that and let it go. I blew up at a friend who makes plans with me but often cancels at the last minute. Now she’s gone silent. I don’t regret confronting her, but how do I repair damage without glossing over the initial problem? This is a real tangle of issues. First: anger. Giving feedback to your ever-cancelling friend may have been important, but your medium messed it up. Now you have a chance to examine how you deal with frustration—to understand why you let it build up until you pop. Your friend is probably confused. And for good reason. She was used to you ignoring her rudeness and coming right back for more. Once you blew the whistle, you broke an a rra ngement that was working fine—for her. The practice is to figure out what was in it for you. As for the damage, maybe you need to repair yourself first, before the rela- tionship. You could reflect on why this person is importa nt to you, why you’ve put up with the way she’s treated you, and what you want from her. Then, assuming she’ll talk with you again, apologize for exploding and make a stab at examining the problem together and more calmly. Of course, there’s always the chance she’ll cancel on that, too! ● Ask Ms. Mindful When you have the urge to give advice, don’t. And repeat. relationships Illustration by Alessandro Gottardo 68 mindful June 2013 in practice