In the fourth question for the New Year from Ariane de Bonvoisin on Oprah.com, we are asked how to help others achieve their resolutions. This takes the focus off ourselves and that can be a good thing for those of us who aren’t already people pleasers and unable to say “No.”
In a professional setting, I have learned to say “No” to extra duties and to teach (force) and to empower (insist) my co-workers familiarize themselves with available technology. I am happy to send out step-by-step instructions via email, to post documents on shared storage and provide initial training. I will ensure that they have the information they need available. I will clarify when they ask questions. And, I will provide some individual assistance. I usually ask them to sit and do it themselves while I provide verbal instructions. I am usually willing to do this a couple of times per individual or again when they haven’t needed it for an extended period of time.
On a personal level, I think I’ve been encouraging my mother for years. When my father was unable to support her growing independence, I supported her decision to leave the marriage. I did this by helping her find and move into her own place. I shared it for a few months prior to my own marriage and encouraged her to make good choices about who she dated. (Of course, I also teased her about putting me through a worse second adolescence that I’d put her through during my first!) When she met her second husband, I encouraged her to take her time with the relationship. When she was serious about marriage again, I asked her to evaluate both sides and make a careful decision. Once she decided, I welcomed him into the family.
Other family members weren’t so welcoming. They urged or ordered her to go back to my dad, whether that would’ve made her happy or not. They made constant comparisons and were highly critical. They wanted to limit his access, inclusion and influence since he wasn’t really family. When problems occurred, their solutions were always drastic and biased … because his interests didn’t count and their relationship was disposable. Where I made suggestions to mitigate problems and work for more equitable resolutions, they took sides. This unwillingness to understand our mother’s needs and wishes by focusing on the bad-good, wrong-right, black-white, all or nothing answers discouraged change rather than enabling it.
Mom is getting older. She just had hip replacement surgery and her current partner has substance abuse issues. She now has a support system and is in a better financial position after my sister intervened prior to the surgery. However, her relationship with my sister was not much changed because my sister was invested in a particular outcome. I was fully supportive of the actions my sister took, but I was not then and am not now supportive of forcing our mother into actions she isn’t ready for. Give her the tools, offer the support, accept her decisions, and remain connected.
In my mother’s case, I believe the resolution that I’m supporting is to be an equal in her relationship(s) and enforce that equality however is needed in order to protect herself and those she cares about.