DEAR ANDY: I have kids and go pick them up after school. While I am waiting for them there is a Cling-On Mom that seems lonely but she is soo in my face. What to do?
- STICKY SITUATION
DEAR STICKY: There are three ways you could proceed.
1. Take the higher road:
If your imagine that your own feeling of ‘she is in my face’ is less than what you perceive her loneliness to be, then you may want to take the higher road and tough it out because lonely people need people too. To help you regulate your irritation, keep these encounters short. They can be even shorter if you get to school right when the bell rings! Practice a mantra while half-smiling. It might be “All creatures big and small” or “I think I can, I think I can”, or, better yet, make up your own.
2. Practice being authentic AND respectful, and as we say to our kiddos, “Use your Words!”:
If your feeling of ‘she is in my face’ is something that you are simply driven totally mad by, then you need to figure out how you are going to extricate yourself from Cling-On Mom before you blow a gasket. Blowing a gasket for life’s little irritations is usually not a great idea, especially in a school-yard and particularly in front of one’s own children (remember parents, Monkey see, Monkey do).
Try being 100% real and 100% respectful. If these two are in perfect full-throttle balance, it is acceptable to say what needs to be said. Here are some examples:
- “I’m fine, thanks for asking. We are both moms and soo busy so I hope you’ll understand, I’m in a quiet mood today and just need some time to regroup before my kids come home. I don’t mean to be rejecting but I would like some quiet time…see you tomorrow”.
- “I’ve had a long day, as I am sure you have as well. Do you mind if I just have some quiet time on my own before the kids descend on me? Thanks. You rock.”
What patterns do you notice in these examples? The creation of shared meaning between the two of you- that you are both busy moms- is an important skill to perfect here. In important conversations, try to establish shared meaning. This increases others feelings of safety. It allows people to see their similarities with you rather than differences.
Also, it can be important to state what we DON’T mean in these types of situations. See how I said “I don’t mean to be rejecting”? This is referred to as “contrasting”. For more about this and other very interesting tips on having important conversations, check out Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzer (2012).
When all else fails, throw on your headphones and crank the tunes. The following playlist might help: Every Kind of People (Robert Palmer), People are People (Depeche Mode), Shiny Happy People (REM), I’ve Seen All Good People (Yes), Everyday People (Sly and the Family Stone), Ship of Fools (World Party), 24 Hour Party People (Happy Mondays), Rainy Day People (Gordon Lightfoot), Cornflake Girl (Tori Amos), Purple People Eater (Sheb Wooley), and People are Strange (The Doors). If music is not your thing, there are audio files for Crucial Conversations.