Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 11, 2002
Respect builds bridges
Father lays down the lines of trust for his daughters
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Bill Gildersleeve was in the line in front of me at the grocery store last week. He wasn't alone. His two little daughters, who looked to be eight or nine years old, were helping Daddy shop. Well, adding things to his shopping cart might be more like it.
Checkout lines must be designed by someone who likes to torment parents. The assorted temptations on display include tons of candy, toys and magazines. So here you have it: a parent's just finished trekking up and down the aisles, trying to balance what's needed and what's affordable -- then it starts.
The children see something at the checkout they just "have to have." Well, not really. But they want it anyway.
Say no, you're likely to face protests and griping. Say yes and you've given in to the manipulations of both children and store owners. My friend in the line faced a similar dilemma.
Now, before sharing Bill Gildersleeve's response to his children, let me tell you about the man. In our town, he has always been the local star. With looks, popularity and a lovely wife, his life looked to be a gift.
He was also blessed with a natural entrepreneurial spirit. He knows business and what people want. Put simply -- Bill is the image of success.
But parenthood's a different game. Success in sports, business, school is absolutely no assurance that you'll be a great parent. That's the job for which there is no training: you learn by doing. Frankly, most parents would admit that they make lots of mistakes along the way.
So I watched Bill and his girls with no little interest. How would this guy handle the minefield of demanding youngsters? From where I stood, Bill hit a home run. He didn't say yes and he didn't say no. He calmly listened to their requests and quietly said: "Not this time, perhaps next time."
And they nodded, they understood. He hadn't rejected the idea out of hand. He just wasn't acquiesing right now.
No onle likes being told "no." Whether you're eight or 80, we like to hear the word "yes." We want it our way. There are very few ways that "no" won't be taken as a form of rejection. What Bill did was to listen first, then qualify his answer. That is a much more respectful way to handle people of all ages.
For example, if you tell me your opinion and I immediately say, "No, you're wrong," there's no way you're going to be open to my alternative point of view. But if, on the other hand, I listen to you respectfully, and then respond by affirming what you said and yet expressing a different view, it will go down better.
Now my point may be diametrically opposed to yours, but I bet you'll listen and consider what I'm saying. Why? Because I respected you and your thoughts well enough to affirm and consider what you said.
Communication is the key to bridge-building. In a world with deep rivers of misunderstanding and mistrust, we need every bridge. And we build them by communicating our truth gently and showing real consideration for the other person and for his or her viewpoint.
That's what I think happened in the grocery store last week. Bill Gildersleeve didn't just say no, he opened a door to possibility. His daughters knew they were heard. I guess Bill has found success, too, in the place it matters most, in his family.
Whether between family members or strangers, respect is always the best place to start.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, All in the Family, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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