My 79-year-old mother is far from tech savvy (who am I kidding, I am far from tech savvy!) and English is not her native language but she needs a smart phone to use Uber and other apps to help maintain her independence.

I think getting a smart phone is a good decision that I fully support. I love my mother and she deserves my full attention and patience. But this will be a challenge! How will I teach my mother to push the right buttons on her phone while preventing my buttons from getting pushed!

We got through the transaction with the poor guy at the Verizon store and then agreed that we will undertake the teaching/learning process one challenge at a time. First, how to make calls and answer the phone, then work our way up to using apps. OK, check, mission accomplished. See you next week…

Next day, Mom calls: “I’m tapping the circles and it’s not vorking”(picture perfect manicured nails and a Hungarian accent) “How do you get the vords to go away?

I think to myself: I am a professional. I have gone through many years of education and training. I can do this. I just needed to approach the situation with a different mind set. To wit: My mother deserves not only the love and patience of a good daughter but also the same professional treatment that my clients get.

In my practice as a divorce mediator, I see many different types of people. They vary in education, income, age, life goals, etc. As a professional, I meet my clients where they are and tailor to their needs. I am a service provider. When the mediation process is complete, I want my clients to feel like I facilitated their discussions, helped them through the tough spots, gave them needed information and not only helped them reach agreement but that I also cared for them as individuals going through a stressful time.

Helping my mom with her new phone should be no different. I must approach the situation with the same compassion and patience. I must have enough integrity to see that my best self must not be reserved for use in my professional life. Sure, I can relax at home and don’t need to be “on” with my family or with my mom. But I should always give of myself at the same maximum level of patience and understanding.

Maybe treating one’s family members with a little professionalism produces better, clearer communication. After all, in mediation, I have observed divorcing couples that treat their spouses this way have more productive exchanges. Taking some of the emotion out of our expression can help better drive one’s point home.

My approach to the smart phone challenge has already paid off. We not only managed to unlock the phone over the phone, but I was able to teach my mom the difference between her Gmail password and her phone’s pin number. An indication that we will get there and I will be better for it.

Image credit: James Cridland used with Creative Commons license.

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