My colleague, Karen Weideman, recounted a story of a situation her 89-year old mother, Betty, faces on a regular basis. Betty is a great pianist and plays regularly at her retirement facility. Her mature audience loves that she can play anything they can call out – no music, just her fantastic memory and talent. Recently, a gentleman has begun sitting close to Betty as she plays, even caressing both of her arms after she finishes a tune he really loves.
Betty is not encouraging these advances, and she doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of this long-in-the-tooth fan. I suggested to Karen that she tell Betty to use “bugs and wishes.” It’s a communication technique my daughter learned in kindergarten. When someone is doing something that annoys you, calmly say, “It bugs me when you X. I wish you would Y.”
There are countless situations where “bugs and wishes” is the perfect approach. The person at work who continually interrupts you. Your teen who leaves her dirty towel on the floor. Instead of 1) ignoring it until you explode in pure rage or 2) taking it over and over and over and over, “bugs and wishes” is a simple tool to dispassionately communicate your preferences or needs.
Maybe Betty could smile kindly, and try this: “It bugs me when you touch my arms. I wish you would just clap!”
Happy birthday, Betty! Hope all your wishes come true.
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