In every relationship, exercise your right to be honest about how you feel. Have open, transparent conversations. Set the contours of the relationship. State what’s done and what’s not done. Spell out what works for you and what doesn’t. You will then ensure peace for yourself and for the other party at all times.
Yesterday, my 18-year-old daughter returned at midnight from a friend’s birthday party. As I opened the door to let her in, her phone rang. I was curious when she didn’t want to take the call. I told her it was fine for her to answer the call because I was anyway going to sleep and she could speak to whoever it was in private. She said she didn’t want to take that call because it was her friend’s mother calling to check on where she (the friend) was. So, I too asked where that friend was. My daughter explained that her friend had had one drink too many and had to be dropped off at another friend’s place for the night because she was scared of going home and facing her parents, who apparently did not approve of her drinking at all.
I completely empathized with the distraught parent trying to ensure if her child was safe. Yet I could not help but wonder why things come to such a pass between parents and their young adult children.
A principal reason is that while almost each household does have its own dos and don’ts framework, honest conversations are not normally had. It is fine for a parent to not encourage or allow a teenager to drink. But it is also important for the parent to understand that the child may not necessarily follow that advice or diktat__whatever. In such a scenario, perhaps a good expectation to set would be to ensure that communication doesn’t break down between them. Imagine the plight of the mother, wondering all night about what’s happening to her daughter? Imagine the showdown that will have ensued in the morning when the daughter got back home. So much acrimony and anxiety could have been avoided if both parent and child understood the contours of their relationship. From a parent point of view: That we don’t support drinking and yet be sure that this expectation may well not be met. But breakdown in communication, being unreachable, not messaging back when pinged, is simply non-negotiable. From a teen/young adult point of view: Communication is non-negotiable but a bit of adventure, as long as it doesn’t turn reckless (like drinking and driving, doping and such), is always fine! Especially in the context of a parent-child relationship, one honest conversation may never be enough. You may need to have them several times often reminding each other that there’s equal opportunity to share, to converse, to resolve and to agree!
Even as I was thinking about this episode I read an interview that Times of Indiahad carried this morning with the young Hindi movie star, Aditi Rao Hydari. Aditi’s parents separated when she was just two. Her father is a close friend of our family. So, we know a bit of their story. I was both impressed and happy to see Aditi, now 26, having evolved into a fine, mature person. She did admit to Times of India that she had had a difficult relationship with her father. She said her father, who is in the last stages of lung cancer, recently wrote her an email sharing all that he wanted to. She said she had written back saying she did not want to hear either his story or her mother’s. And that she preferred they all focused on the present and what they had of and for each other. She said she did care for her father having overcome the initial phase of turmoil and uniqueness of their relationship. Now, that’s what an honest conversation is all about. Where you say what you feel__so that you continue to be in peace!
Obviously, honesty doesn’t apply in a parent-sibling context alone. In any relationship, the slightest whiff of dishonesty, and this does not mean breach of trust or betrayal alone, when you refuse to say or share what you feel, can be destructive. If you really seek to be peaceful, and badly want it, you must invoke it in your relationships by always expressing yourself honestly. By always saying what you feel about someone or something without worrying about either circumstance or consequence.
We have become dishonest with each other because it is a lot more convenient. Dishonesty often helps keep the external environment peaceful. But is that pretentious peace more important than what you (want to) feel within yourself?
A young manager reached out to me recently asking for advice on how to handle his two bosses who were at war with each other, playing ping pong with him, his career and his emotions. He said he was afraid to red-flag either of them lest he be thrown out of his job. I asked him what he would do if job was guaranteed. He replied saying he would have spoken his mind, appealing to the two bosses to be considerate to him and his career, and recommending a working arrangement where everyone won. I advised him to simply carry out that plan saying that if he did lose his job then probably that wasn’t right place to be in, in any case! He, of course, hesitated. But eventually, after thinking through my advice for over a month, he executed the plan. Last week he called up to say, his honest conversation with his two bosses__one an Indonesian and the other a Spaniard__worked wonders. And they were now working in complete harmony with both bosses giving him more empowerment and responsibilities!
We often sacrifice our inner peace on the redoubtable altar of dignity, etiquette and decorum because we fear imaginary consequences. The truth is that those consequences are never going to ensue because no one likes being dishonest. Simple. Dishonesty often gets practiced though because it is easy. It is easy for the parent to dictate that the child shall not drink. It is difficult for the parent to see that the child, in spite of the diktat, may well drink. It is easy for the child to avoidthe parent’s calls. It is going to be difficult, in fact scary, to pick up the phone and say that I have had a drink and so the best thing for me to do is to stay over at a friend’s. It may have been easy for Aditi to tell her dad, who is sinking, that it was fine for things to have happened the way they did between him and her mother. But she would have been dishonest__principally, with herself. So she chose to be upfront and said let’s focus on what we have left with us. It may have been difficult doing that but she did that for her own inner peace. The young manager did not find peace the easy way, allowing himself to be played ping-pong with! He found it only when he exorcised his demons and confronted his bosses!
Dishonesty and honesty, always deliver this logical outcomes, when practiced. This is true of any context, in anybody’s Life. Examine your own relationships. Wherever you find your inner peace being compromised, be sure that you are not being honest enough. To become peaceful, simply be honest, be upfront!