My wife and I were talking today about how to call out your friends or family members on bad behaviors that drive you crazy, without making a huge issue out of it, or having to have a conversation. Our good friend Amy G. has mastered a method that is effective without being injurious to the relationship. Naturally we call it “The Amy G. Method.”
Her trick (which we try to copy whenever we remember) is to bring attention to the bad behavior at the very moment it is happening. Somehow this circumvents any defensive programming on the part of the poorly-behaving individual in question. The person can instantly recall/replay their own actions — there’s no denying they just did that.
One bad behavior I’m often guilty of is being over-controlling in the kitchen, especially when my wife is cooking eggs (so much so that I’ve earned the ignominious nickname Eggspert). She recently caught me in the act and employed the Amy G. method. I was caught red-handed, unable to deny my side-burner meddling. Since then I’ve let her cook her eggs in peace.
For such a simple concept, it’s harder than you might think to consistently put it in practice. I think that’s because we overestimate how often our friends and family members actually do the things that annoy us (the behaviors are so annoying, it seems they do them all the time). So if you miss an opportunity, you might spend weeks waiting for someone to loudly slurp their tea, or tell you you look tired, or criticize your cooking, or offer unsolicited advice regarding how to raise your child. And that’s not much fun …
But if you catch them in the act, and hit the right tone, then the Amy G. method can work beautifully. It’s quick, it’s merciful, and best of all it’s light — an on-the-spot behavioral change request has a much lighter vibe than an hour long dissection of someone’s character (that’s probably going to dig up way too much stuff on both sides of the relationship).
So … thanks Amy G. Still working on it.