How to Be a Better Friend and Understand Your Adult Children

Aug 20, 2021 | Relationships

By: Jenny Baxter

How do you be a better friend, colleague, or for that matter, mother to your adult children?

jenny baxter with adult chlidren

In the photo above, I’m with the other girls in my family. We are all good friends. I’ve been very intentional about this. Friendship doesn’t “just happen”!

I’ve discovered the world has two types of people. And both are quite different. Everyone knows it’s great to have great friends, who can stay with you through life’s sticky moments. There’s even proven health benefits of having good friends!

Two Different Relationship Types

I love doing stuff, making things, and staying on time. My friend prefers talking, catching up, chatting and being in a good relationship with people. Why are we so different?

Over the years I’ve learnt how to be a better friend. I’ve spent a lot of time with several great girlfriends. We have adult children about the same age, who attended the same schools, and we’ve gone on family trips together. But we are very different in the way we approach everything relational! And it took me a long time to work out the difference between us. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

Some of my friends looove to chat on the phone. But not everyone is like that. Others of us, like me, avoid phone calls for as long as possible, and when I finally got to them, I usually made them short. One of my friends reminded me lately that one day, years ago, I rang her and happily revealed, “I just rang to let you know I’m pregnant,” I paused, while she gasped and said something.

Then I quickly responded: “Okay, see you Sunday!” and hung up. She hardly got a chance to say anything!

I’m happy to report that these days I do expect to chat for a bit on the phone. I’ve got much better at calling people. But it took me a long time to learn because I didn’t understand how important it was to simply chat. I didn’t understand the difference between two personality types and how important they are. I didn’t know about “relational” and “tasky”.

SHE: Those chatty friends (relational)

SHE made a point of talking to the man at the corner shop. Whereas I’d rush in to buy my milk or bread, and rush out again. “Gotta go! Can’t stop!”

SHE just had to have a catch up with people during meetings! “How are things?” bubbled out with genuine interest, while I looked at my watch, fidgeting and wondering about starting on time.

SHE made sure she arrived at the school gate early, especially to chat to other parents. But I often arrived five minutes late, because it had been a busy afternoon. I’d quickly gather my children, and leave. Building margins into my life was not even a concept for me back then. I was always in a rush.

Do these scenarios seem familiar to you? SHE was so chilled . . .  and wasting MY precious time! To be a better friend I had to cut her some slack and realize that SHE is much more relational than me.

I found out about “relational and tasky” types

Working out that some people are relational and that others (like me) are tasky, helped me to be a better friend. I learnt to treasure others in a new way, particularly my own family including adult children, but also friends and colleagues.

There are basically two types of people:

  1. Those who are relationally-focused
  2. Those who are task-focused.

Relational people are almost always ready for a chat

Relational people love to connect, find out what’s going on, and enjoy stopping to smell the roses. Even though she died young, I remember my mother was one of those chatty-types. My sister and I would often come home from school to find her on the phone, and it would be another 20 minutes before she could talk to us about our day at school.

Tasky people, like me, are often too busy to stop

While us tasky ones are happy to relate to others, connecting is always for a purpose. So if we find out how others are during a two-minute conversation about what time the big game begins, that’s good. As for smelling the roses? Well, that’s only for having a whiff while on your way out the garden gate to the next appointment! However, knowing that to be a better friend it’s important to stop and make small talk, changes things.

Note to you tasky ones: It’s only by making small talk that you get to the deeper conversations, but tasky people usually hate small talk! I’ve learnt it’s a small sacrifice to make so as to get to deeper relationships.

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek conversation between the two opposites:

Relational-type: “How’s your mother’s friend’s sister coming along?”

Tasky-type: “OK thanks. About the same as yesterday. Sorry, I’m on the way to buy some bread and milk. Gotta run!”

Maybe that’s a ridiculous example, but I think you get my drift.

Here’s the thing …

  • If everyone were tasky, then it would take a long time to notice people who go missing.
  • And if everyone were relational, nothing would ever get done!

So, to be a better friend, the two types need to understand each other. AND to value the others’ strengths. This is a fine balance to achieve.

Relational people chat easily, and have to focus on getting things done. But equally, tasky people who like to get things done, like me, have to shift their priorities to spend time with people. So it’s alright to find out how people are, even when there are tasks to be done. Ask those questions on the phone. Find out what’s going on for them. To be a better friend it’s important for you to see, hear and value others.

And an added bonus? People will like you more! So that’s why it’s a good idea to work out if you are relational or tasky. Because then you can be a better friend, which helps you as you relate to your adult children. Another thing to be aware of is the importance of asking open-ended questions. You can read more about that here.

Find a happy medium

To have a good relationship with people, and treasure those close to you, it’s a good idea to consciously find a balance, because we all tend to be one type or the other. That way you can be a better friend, a more valuable team-member, and a more socially aware parent.

So, to be a better friend, work out what relationship type you are.

If you don’t know, take this quiz to find out if you are relational or tasky.

Article supplied with thanks to Treasuring Mothers.

About the Author: Married with 5 children, and 3 adorable grandkids, Jenny is an accomplished writer, manager and Board Director with a heart for motherhood.

Feature image: Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash