Now, everyone loves my mother and they respect her, and that’s the Holy Grail for all of us – we want to be loved and respected.
So, here are some of the ways that I’ve observed and heard from her as to how she does this.
1. Give people a way out
This is about taking their feelings into consideration, and giving them a way to save face. They’ll really appreciate it even if they never say anything, and if you do the opposite, if you corner them, they may resent it forever.
It’s like if you have a thief in your house, you don’t want to stand in front of them and block their exit. You want to be clearing a path so they can get out gracefully, and nobody gets hurt.
2. Praise in public, criticize one-to-one in private
Second, she says to praise people in public, and criticise only when you’re one on one and in private. This relates to the saving face point as well and, for example, she says you never want to criticize your children in front of their friends. The same thing applies at work.
This is a term that my mother came up with that says you want to deal with issues and not let them fester.
Being in confrontate does not mean being confrontational. In fact, it means the opposite. It means you want to address the issue in a constructive way, but you do want to address the issue.
4. The 3 C’s
This is advice my mother gave me when I was going away to college, and she tells me that this is advice she gives all hyper competitive achievers.
The three Cs are: avoid unnecessary conflict, comparison and competition. If you can do those things, and remind yourself… whenever I do and I catch myself, it helps me so much because it changes the negative tape in my head and it just makes me feel better, and it makes me a better person to be around.
5. Listen to people
Sometimes, my mother says, “People just need to talk it out”. So you just sit and listen, actively listen, and they’ll really appreciate it. I still remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table with all kinds of friends and relatives, and that’s what she would do, and they always left feeling better.
6. Show them how it’s done
You can think of this as role-modelling the behaviour, or showing rather than simply describing.
Where this comes up is, my mother is a paediatrician and when she would be showing new mothers how to love their babies, she would pick them up and demonstrate, “This is how you love a baby” – she would give them what I call a full body hug.
She’d pick up the baby, hold the head and just love the baby, so her whole body would be against yours and she was cradling the baby’s head. From that, the new mothers could see it’s not just pick up the baby, make sure you’re supporting the neck, but it was you love the baby. You show the mother how to do that.
I’m sure there are places in work where we can all do that too.
7. Be a positive force
When my mother came to the US, she shortened her name to KC – it’s actually Kuang-Chung. So, she is so positive and spontaneous. She is so herself and comfortable in her own skin, and makes everybody around her feel really comfortable, happy and positive.
She does this just by interjecting and injecting this huge amount of positive energy. She says things in a positive way, she makes people feel great, and people have now started to call this the ‘KC factor’.
So let’s all try to put some more ‘KC factor’ into our lives.
8. See the possibilities
Alongside that ‘KC factor’ that we just talked about, this is about seeing the possibilities and seeing a way to get around the issues and the problems.
For example, when we were little, we’d be cooking and we’d say, “Oh, we want to make this dish with teriyaki sauce, but we don’t have teriyaki sauce. Oh no, we can’t do it.” She’d come around and say, “Well, why not use some soy sauce and some sugar, and we can make our own teriyaki sauce?”, which of course worked out great. And as any good Chinese family, we always had soy sauce around.
She was like the female version of that TV character “MacGyver” – you know how he would be able to use tape and string and whatever was lying around in the garage where everybody was being held hostage, and create an airplane so they could fly out and escape and catch the bad guys.
So see the possibilities, be resourceful and imaginative.
9. “Dog is dog”
I know, almost impossible to argue with the woman, right? I mean, dog is dog, how can you argue? What she means by that is, you can only expect a dog to behave like a dog, and not like a cat or a squirrel.
When you apply that to people, it’s that people will tend to behave as they are and they will revert to type. So we shouldn’t be surprised when people do things in a way that is consistent with how they are, even if it’s not what we expect or would like.
It also reminds me of the story about the frog and the scorpion, where the scorpion wants to get to the other side of the pond. The frog says, “Why should I take you? You’re just going to sting me and we’ll die.” The scorpion says, “Of course not, it’s in my self-interest not to sting you.” They get to the middle of the pond and, of course, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog goes, “Why did you do that?” The scorpion goes, “Well, I couldn’t help it, I’m a scorpion.” So, dog is dog.
10. Don’t be pressured by your own potential
This is something that applies to all achievers. My mother used to watch me struggle and work so hard because I had this potential I was trying to achieve, and I had so many things that I wanted to do.
This was her way of saying, “Hey, you also have to enjoy life. Don’t be pressured by what society tells you what you have to do – it’s your decision”, or my decision whether I want to fulfil my whole potential or not. If I decide to do it, great, go for it. And you want to be happy doing that but don’t be pressured by what other people’s expectations are of you fulfilling your own potential. You get to choose, you decide, it’s your life.
She also reminded me that there’s this Charles Schulz Peanuts cartoon where he has the cartoon character – I can’t remember which one it was; maybe it was Lucy – where the caption is, “The heaviest burden is your own potential.”
So, don’t be burdened by your own potential.