“ Like People For Who They Are”
This quote was found in my father’s handwriting on his bathroom door after he passed away. We love it because it was quintessentially Dad.
5 Relationships Principles My Dad Taught Me
- People change when they feel liked and accepted for who they are. If people are told what to do, there is a good chance they will do the opposite. We all want to feel in control.
- Relationships powerfully impact change—never underestimate the power of a relationship.
- A high level of confrontation doesn’t change people but a highly collaborative relationship does support change.
- Listen to people and they feel respected.
- Be who you are
Like and Accept Them For Who They Are
Dad accepted people from all walks of life. My sister recalls waking up one morning to find a stranger sleeping on the couch. The stranger was a hitchhiker Dad had taken home, given him his coat and $20.00. Despite her concerns Dad said, “I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”
Let Them Be Who There Are
Dad hated others controlling him; he would disconnect car seat belt warnings because he hated a machine giving him orders. But he also respected and allowed others personal freedom and disliked telling them what to do.
The Power of a Relationship
Dad was an instant best friend to those that met him. Waiters, taxicab drivers, and cashiers would all agree that he had the ability to shrink the world, and make you feel as if you were the most important person he had ever met. All of his grandkids thought they were his favorite, as did many of those who attended his funeral.
Dad disliked criticizing people but if he found feedback necessary, he reinforced the relationship first. After his death I found a file containing notes on an experience he witnessed with a difficult teenage grandchild. He had behavioral concerns and drafted three versions of letter to the grandchild designed to motivate change. In the end he decided to send a letter reinforcing positive personal characteristics, reinforcing his love completing ignoring the negative.
Does it surprise you to learn Dad remained a hero and strong influence to this person through many troubling years?
Regarding his concerns about the grandchild, he sent me a letter with the advice, “Find out how they feel, then express your concerns and see what can be worked out.”
The first question my dad would ask me, “Tell me how you are doing? How are your kids?” And then he would listen. If I just gave him short superficial information he would answer disappointedly, “Oh, well I hope you will tell me if there is anything I need to know or anything I can do to help.” We always knew he cared.
Be Who You Are
Despite how much he cared about others, he marched to his own drummer. He often dressed in worn out clothing to illustrate thriftiness; he wanted to paint his front door purple to compliment his home’s river rock and he loved burnt toast.
Dad was not perfect. His quirks and uniqueness could sometimes be irritating. Believing always in the goodness of others cost Dad money over the years with “friends.” But because he walked the talk of his relationships principals, he died beloved and I will miss him always.
All my professional training has reinforced lessons my dad knew intuitively or as Goethe said, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will be become what he ought to be and could be.”
More information on relationship skills: https://utahmentalhealthservices.com/emotional-reflection-exercises/
Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW
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