Over the recent school half term break, my son and I travelled to India to spend time with close family and friends. An unexpected benefit was a whole week spent with hardly a mention of Brexit in the news. Bliss. I had many memorable experiences but I want to share just one with you today.
My son is fifteen and on the autism spectrum. That last bit is only relevant because it gives greater context to the anecdote I'm going to share. I asked him to choose between coming with me to India or staying back home with his dad. He chose to join me even though he had limited interest in the trip itself.
He is a sweet natured, sensitive boy who doesn't ask for much. He has a few simple requirements that include access to WiFi and chicken on the menu. He even put up with the noises (mostly cars honking for no reason) and distinct smells of the bustling city of Mumbai that can be overwhelming to people with autism.
But there was one thing that really upset him. It was the time difference between North America and India. He had been planning to do a series of live streams with his online friends from that part of the world. He was dismayed when he realised that it would be 3am in the morning in Mumbai making it quite impossible for him to get involved.
"Why did you have to bring me to India for the whole of my half term break?" he wailed again and again with tears in his eyes.
I didn't know what to say or how to console him. And so I simply sat with him and listened to him vent. And then when he had quietened down I said, "I understand how frustrating that must be for you. I accept that you came to India for me, and for that I am so grateful. Thank you so much. I'm really glad you are here with me because my holiday wouldn't be the same without you. But I'm so sorry you can't do your live streams with your friends because of it."
He listened and calmed down. We hugged and he said "it's OK, mum". After that I didn't hear another word about that. He'd felt acknowledged and understood. Furthermore, I had apologised and shown appreciation for the sacrifice he'd made. It paved the way for a charming break where I watched my boy grow up and move a big step towards becoming a man.
The Acknowledge, Appreciate and Apologise technique is one of the simplest ways with which to deescalate a conflict and minimise friction when someone is feeling irate or hard done by. You don't have to use them all. Even just one of those three can do the trick.
Have you tried it? If not, do give it a try. You might be surprised at the outcome.