Mind your P’s and Q’s.
If you’re a Millennial, you might say, “What?” But if you’re a Boomer, chances are you heard this phrase growing up. Many times.
Translated, Mind your P’s and Q’s is “Mind your manners,” “Mind your language.” “Be on your best behavior.”
If you work with seniors or if you have an elder in your life, I’d like to suggest another meaning for the P’s: three words that are important, for one reason or another.
PATIENCE–We know that seniors walk more slowly, so we change our pace to meet theirs. Other parts of their bodies also require us to adjust. We speak distinctly and sit face to face when we know they’re experiencing hearing loss. But what about decision making? For many independent seniors, a decision like giving up driving or moving to a retirement community is huge, requiring months and even years to process. As professionals, or as adult children, it’s frustrating to hear for the seemingly millionth time, “We’re just not ready yet.” So what do we do? Probably the biggest gift we can give seniors in the throes of decision is emotional space. We also can acknowledge the difficulty they’re facing, saying things like “I can tell this is hard for you. I want you to know I’m here to help. Another tact is to extend invitations to explore options but with no strings attached.
PERSISTENCE–This may seem to contradict the patience idea. This is the Yin and the other the Yang. As senior professionals, if we are so patient that we wait a long time before contacting a senior prospect after the initial visit, he or she may go elsewhere. As adult children, if we don’t bring up the issue at all, our parents may jump to an erroneous conclusion that we don’t care. My advice is to keep talking, but at a slower pace than you might prefer.
PUSHY–Don’t do it! Seniors hate even the slightest hint of pushiness. Their idea of pushiness is likely different than yours! You can tell when they’re viewing you as pushy if they don’t answer your calls or return messages or if their tone of voice or body language screams, “I’m not interested. Don’t talk to me!” But pushiness isn’t always such a bad thing. I remember working with a single woman in her 90s who had a heart condition and other severe medical problems but who was alert and oriented. She loved her condo, but realized she would need more care as time went on. She visited retirement communities, but kept stalling and stalling on this difficult decision. Later, after moving in and settling in comfortably, I asked her, “Do you think I was pushy during the time you were deciding about moving? I waited for her answer. “No, not really. But maybe a little pushy. But not too much.”