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8 Questions to Ask Your Aging Parent

8 Questions to Ask Your Aging Parent

    Photo credit: Rosie O'Beirne (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    We spend so much of our lives with our parents and yet most of it is devoted to routine and commonplace things.

    But we rarely discuss the profound.

    Time is short and unfortunately we are all getting older. There may never be a better time than now to have a meaningful conversation with your parent or parents.

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    You sometimes hear people say that they regret missed opportunities while their parents were alive and that there were things they wish they had spoken about. Make sure that you seize the chance while you can.

    Here are some good questions to ask your parent or parents:

    1. Can you tell me a story about your parents or grandparents?

    Family history is much more than a family tree and a photo album. It is also a collection of stories which become your family folklore. Be sure to have some stories about your ancestors that you can pass on to your descendants.

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    2. Can you tell me a story about when you were a child?

    Stories about their adventures, hopes, fears and relationships with friends and parents can be fascinating and revealing. Why not record them on video?

    3. Can you tell me a story about me as a child?

    Your parents will remember funny or embarrassing things about you as a little child. These will be handy when one day your child asks you question 2 above.

    4. What is the one piece of advice you would like to share with me?

    Your parents have a lifetime of experience and there are still things that you can learn from them. They may share something philosophical, funny or silly. Whatever it is it can pass into the family sayings and mythology.

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    5. What thing in your life made you the happiest or the proudest?

    Let’s talk about the good things in their lives; their achievements, joys and moments of pride. You may yourself feature there.

    6. What is your biggest regret? What would you have done differently?

    Perhaps this is a sad area that you would rather not explore but sometimes the answer can be revealing and explain things about your parents that you did not realise or understand.

    7. What event had the biggest impact on you?

    Perhaps it was something to do with a war or a disaster. What was it that made a big impression?  See if you can learn exactly how they felt and reacted at the time. It might put something you had only ever read about into the personal context of your parent.

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    8. What plans should we make for the future?

    Many people feel uncomfortable talking about future plans that include what happens after their parents pass. But these are important issues and it is better to broach them. Where will they live if they can no longer manage where they are? Is there a will? What do they want to do with the heirlooms? What sort of funeral would they want?

    The next time your see your aging parents don’t just talk about minor domestic matters. Try raising some of the big questions above and then listen carefully to their answers. You may be surprised at what you learn.

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

    Face Adversity with a Smile How to Win an Argument – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics How to Get Rich: 11 Bold Moves That Guarantee Wealth How to be a Brilliant Conversationalist Think Laterally

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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