The answer to everything

When speaking to your parents, avoid mayhem with this simple phrase.

click to enlarge OR YOU COULD DO THIS: The author tries a more direct tactic with her mother ("Mom's not much of an actress and clearly does not believe her life is in danger," says Robinson.) - Jacob Robinson
Jacob Robinson
OR YOU COULD DO THIS: The author tries a more direct tactic with her mother ("Mom's not much of an actress and clearly does not believe her life is in danger," says Robinson.)

Many of us are stuck in the middle between two generations: our kids and our parents. One demographic won't listen and the other can't hear. My parents are becoming more and more of a handful.

Why? They're getting "boldly opinionated."

I say this without an ounce of irritation or annoyance. I'm amused when my previously shy and quiet mother announces with God-given authority that "any child of mine putting on a brunch better have mimosas. I don't care if it is the crack of dawn; I have a reputation to uphold."

Dad's always had a point of view. He just usually saved his zingers for his kids. Now no one is safe. My aunt dragged him out for a two-mile walk one morning, and before he knew it the walk was over and he'd been caught up on all the gossip.

"I don't know which moved faster," he told her after catching his breath, "your feet or your mouth."

In recognizing this development, this constant sharing of inner thoughts, I've discovered the perfect response, a beautiful phrase; it has saved my life on more than one occasion.

It might save your life and sanity, too.


"You may be right."

It's short, simple, and sweet, but this statement is better than almost anything out there, including "Two for the price of one" and "I'm buying."

The speaker could mean, "You may be wrong," but parents hear, "You're right."

Everyone wins.

Try it yourself.

You put your daughter on the carpet, howling, to wipe the messy high chair. Mom picks up the baby, shakes her head, and says, "When I was your age, I could hold a baby on one hip, stir the sauce, clean a mess and talk on the phone all at the same time. If you had some hips, maybe you could manage it, too."

Instead of rolling your eyes or reaching for more mood stabilizers, try smiling and say,

"You may be right."

A beloved older relative sticks her head in the bathroom during tubby time, picks some bacon out of her teeth and says,

"It's not your son's fault you don't wear waterproof mascara. Let him splash and enjoy his bath. It's supposed to be fun."

Instead of scowling, just wink and say,

"You may be right."

See how easy this is?

"You should have started writing about your family years ago. This so-called career of yours might actually go somewhere now."

"You may be right."

"How come your kids are sniffling and coughing? Why are you blowing your nose? You all wouldn't feel so goddamn miserable if someone would drink some real liquor and let those kids eat your mother's meatloaf."

"You may be right."

They smile and feel validated. You chuckle and feel smug. Works like a charm, every single time.

This might even work on your kids or your boss. Let me know if you have a different idea.

I bet you can guess my response.

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