I’ve become obsessed recently with receiving wisdom. Not, like, Pinterest-fake-Marilyn-Monroe-wisdom: pro-tip, she did not say any of those stupid things.
I mean, actual things people have said to you in conversation that are deeply wise. Whether because you’re in crisis, or because the person in question is very old and learned (“the word is LEARNed, Pepe”) or because the stars simply align and allow you to appreciate what is being said to you.
Here are the two wisest things I’ve heard in recent memory (and I’m dying to hear yours):
When asked why, despite the hassle and boredom and resource-suck of parenting, you never really blame your kid for it:
“Does your brain complain when you spend money on your foot?”
Wow. I am very unromantic about parenting, I would say, versus the popular conception of MOTHERING, but this sat me down in its truth. Parenting is a huge pain in the ass, and on the worst day, you might say, wtf am I doing this for? but, truthfully, it’s never occured to me to be annoyed at my daughter about it. Because she’s my foot. If my foot needed bunion surgery, it wouldn’t be something to get mad about, other than to an unhelpful insurance representative. She’s part of my body. If I didn’t look after her, my body would suffer. That’s it. That’s parenting, for me. It’s selfish. Your child is like your foot. It’s not even some mystical perfect love you might or might not feel: your child is an extension of your physical body.
When solving a problem at work or in a relationship where the other person is wrong and you don’t know how to make them admit it:
Stop trying. No one is willing to admit they were wrong. We are DESPERATE to avoid admitting wrongdoing; for whatever reason, the emotional and psychological cost of saying “you were right, I was wrong” is incalcuable.
So, here’s a thought: why do you need them to say it? It’s an ego thing, especially in the workplace. It’s very satisfying to hear that you were right. But it’s meaningless, ultimately. People know when they’re wrong, they just struggle to say it.
Here’s the deal: what are the concrete things you want out of this exchange? Because people are so horrified at the idea of verbalizing wrongdoing that they will do almost anything you want to circumvent it.
Fix the project in three days? Sure!
Arrange a belated birthday party for you? ABSOLUTELY.
Get a sitter after six pm on a Saturday night? Bob’s your uncle!
Because if you know what you want, and can say “well, that happened, here’s what I need” without the step of “hey, buster, you screwed the pooch on this, right?” people will do almost anything for you. The gratitude a person feels when they do not have to admit wrongdoing is limitless. Embrace it! Having someone say “you were right, I was wrong” is lovely, but it’s fundamentally ego-driven and unnecessary. You’re not wrong to want it, but if you can free youself from demanding it, you can actually get more concrete things than you would if you forced someone over a barrel to say they fucked up. TRY IT. It’s a golden ticket.
Okay, what marvelous advice have you received? What are the game-changers?
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.