3 Things You Should Never Say to a Grown Person

I come from a household of very strong women. Despite our deep south (and therefore incredibly conservative) upbringing, our lives pretty much revolved around the women in the family. Our fathers, grandfathers, uncles…their roles were as providers, protectors, pillars. The everyday dealings—you know, the nitty gritty of family—was left to the women, and as young boys and girls, we all learned by osmosis and experience how to respond to grown folks. You know what I mean: what was and was not appropriate to say or do. These women not only told us how to talk to grown men and women, they showed us. So, I cannot ever remember a time when I was seriously reprimanded for being disrespectful in my speech to any adult. All it took was an eyebrow raised or a movement in my mama neck to make me know that I was pulling a Bob Dylan- Walking the Line.

Welllll! Fast forward to the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2022: Apparently, somebody forgot to tell these new age parents to pass the rules on to their children! If I hear one more individual under the age of 25 snap off on a grown person, I’m putting my foot somewhere besides down (and yeah, I know you out there talking about you grown at 24—the devil has tricked yo’ little kid acting behind).

I’m sorry, but it isn’t okay for you to disrespect your elders in the fashion to which you have become accustom.  I mean, you have not paid any dues—or heck, (for a large percentage of your unemployed, uneducated behinds) any bills for that matter.  So your right to be “heard”, to “speak your mind”, or to “be treated like an adult” is a long, long, long way off.

But I get it!  Nobody told you; and when you did it wrong, nobody corrected you. Because of this misstep, you have accumulated a myriad of bad habits that will (with the wrong person) get you slapped in the face—or even worse, ignored and cut off forever from the flow of favor that a little graciousness and politeness and courtesy can get you.  

Never FEAR! I have begun walking in my ministry as a grown woman—a budding elder, if you will—and I’m here to help you. I can’t remediate every aspect of ignorance in which you engage; however, IF you remember at least these 3 things, you will stand out from your unruly, rude peers so much that the older, wealthier set will find you positively delightful, thus opening doors that you would never be able to walk through otherwise.

#1. Never answer a question with the word WHAT. One of my pet peeves in life is the word “what”. This word, when not followed by the appropriate verbiage, tone of voice, and humbleness of spirit always comes out sounding like you have a problem with something. It simply drips with an attitude of ‘you’re bothering me’. It completely turns off people who might otherwise give you something that you want or need later on. They won’t even remember why they don’t want to help you: they will only remember the nasty taste in their mouths when you responded with, “WHAT?” Please erase this negativity from your vocabulary. Do use words and phrases like: I’m sorry, can you repeat that—I didn’t hear you. Did you need me? Is there something that I can do for you? How can I help? And if you can’t bring yourself to stoop to that level of service, at least just say, “Yes?”

#2. Never respond to a request with the question WHY DO I HAVE TO DO IT. Your generation has a warped way of viewing things. You believe that each time someone asks you to complete even the simplest of tasks that they are out to get you, to crush you, to inconvenience you. I have to tell you that when people ask you to do something, it is because they believe that you are the most capable, most available, most appropriate person to do it. Why would I ask someone else when you do it so well? It’s a compliment to you that (despite the stupidity of your generation) an older person has singled you out to do anything at all. Most of you are incapable of the most basic of tasks. Do take the request as a compliment and perform the task to the best of your ability. The “thank you” that follows should be payment enough; and in some instances, old people have been known to reward in food, money and access to other things they have that you need.

#3. Never interrupt someone with the phrase I KNOW. If your dumb butt knew, no one would be explaining it to you! Since I am an educator, I understand how the chemical imbalances of your body cause you to believe that you are smarter, sexier, savvier that you really are—adolescence and young adulthood are extremely difficult fun-house phases that don’t pass soon enough. So in an effort to save you from yourself, I’m telling you the truth: You don’t know anything yet. And this is why some adult is explaining what should happen next—be it in your life, in their house, or out in public. Do nod and say“mmm hmm” and “okay”, so that you at the very least look like you’re listening. I’m going to go ahead and suggest that you DO listen because most of us also hate it when we have to repeat ourselves because you’re so slow and petulant.

If you are able to at least do these three things, I promise you that life would be a lot less confrontational and nerve racking. You may also get the added perks of people remembering you as being nicer than you really are—which means that they are more prone to trust you with their stuff, gift you with their resources, and take care of you when you need it. I myself have only made it this far in life because of the elders who have allowed me the privilege of their care and concern; otherwise, I’d be looking like you—busted, broke down, disgusted and trying to figure out why I am always having a hard time getting people to help me.

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