A: Of course you can request that she put the phone away. In fact, as mother-in-law you have a responsibility to help her see the damage this is doing to her family.
Confer with your son first so that he’s on board and understands his role. Then become a gentle teacher; school her in the appropriate use of the phone, and do this with love, not anger or aggravation. She has been in a habit of mindlessness rather than mindfulness, so you and your son have a big job ahead of you. But for the sake of the family, it will be well worth it.
Q: I’ve lived in the same city for the last 30 years and am deeply engaged in my community. So why is it that my new neighbors move to town, get involved, and six months later invite me to their house to meet a few people I should know?
A: That’s easy, honey. They’re so new they just don’t know who you are yet.
Q: My mom wants to be best friends with me. She wants to know intimate details of my life with my boyfriend. She asks really graphic questions, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable. How do I get her to stop asking about my private life without hurting her feelings? She’s still pretty delicate after my dad’s death some months ago.
A: You simply tell her that such inquiries are now off-limits. Remember that you can’t control her reaction in terms of hurt feelings.
Explain that you prefer to honor the mother-daughter relationship and keep healthy boundaries in place. I’d also recommend that you find additional things to “bond” over as she goes through her grief. I am very sorry for your family’s loss.
Q: I return a call to a client who has become too high-maintenance, and the plan is to tell her that one of our local competitors might be able to serve them better. Well, this doesn’t go as planned. The client responds, “Oh, you can’t send me there. They referred me to you and said you were nicer than them.” What should I do?
A: Have a candid conversation with the client. Inform her she will be charged an hourly rate when your staff members have to spend extra time on her projects. Put a steep price on the bad behavior, and she’ll either pay up or go away.
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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen—A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.