You know that scene in Bad Moms when Amy Mitchell runs for PTA President on a platform of “vote for me if you want to do less”?
She rallied an entire school community to have less fundraisers, less policy, and less judgement. And yet, those same people who support and appreciate her are going to innocently (and regularly) say three things that will drive her crazy.
Here’s what they are and strategies to avoid them yourself.
- I don’t know how you do it.
Gwendolyn says this to Amy in the opening scene – before she is even president. Which makes you wonder: how will Amy successfully juggle work, family, her new boyfriend, and the PTA? Amy’s secret (like all the other people who find time to “do so many things!” is to choose the things that make her happy, and say no – or delegate – the rest.
Amy will quickly wish that people will STOP saying, “I don’t know how you do it”.
If you find these words rising to your lips when you talk to any volunteer, instead say:
- “Thank you so much” followed by:
- “How do you balance work, family, and…?”
- “What happens when work needs you and the [fill in other thing] needs you?”
Here’s the trick: Be genuine. Be curious. Be appreciative. Both in your words and your body language.
- I can’t help. I work full time.
As soon as Amy officially becomes PTA president people will quickly let her know, “I think what you’re doing is great. I don’t know how you find time for it all. And by the way, I can’t help because I work full time.”
Any Amy will think, “Ohhhh…you work full time. Guess what? So.Do.I.”
And so do most of the other volunteers that find time to help out.
“I work full time” is an unintentionally – yet totally insulting – response to someone who asks you for – or clearly needs – your help. I know, I know, when asked for help you think, “is this bitch crazy? I don’t have time to help. I DON’T HAVE TIME TO DO ANYTHING.” Instead say:
- “I appreciate all you do.” Followed by:
- “My schedule is full right now. I can’t help out.”
- “I can help out for [amount of time] during [period of time].”
- “I’d love to help with…
- “I give my time to…that’s the cause I am supporting right now.”
And remember, it’s OK to say no. I repeat: IT IS OK TO SAY NO. Just say it in a more supportive way.
- You should…
By the time Amy runs her first PTA event someone – many someones – will give her feedback. They’ll tell her “you should” a thousand times and she’ll likely think, “sure I should but can I? Can I do that thing and still have time for everything else.” Likely those “shoulds” will come from people who have lots of ideas and no time to actually help her.
Let’s all stop sharing ideas with each other as if they “should” have been thought of already. Instead say:
- “Thank you so much for [be specific]”… followed by…
- “Next time you do … could I help by …”
- “I have an idea about … what’s the best way to share my feedback?”
- “This might not be possible, but I have an idea to…”
Here’s the trick: lead with gratitude (see the theme here) and offer your idea graciously.
For those Amy Mitchell’s out there
For those of us who give our time generously to organizations – PTA and otherwise – we have a role to play in this too. Instead of feeling frustrated and wishing more people would do more and say less, help these well intentioned people who say the right things in the wrong way.
- Thank each person for something they have done, no matter how little. The advice to lead with gratitude goes both ways.
- Infuse some empathy into the conversation. Deeply listen to what the other person is saying (without thinking I AM BUSY TOO). Experience what they are feeling. Say thank you, acknowledge their feelings, then hit ‘em with some knowledge*.
- Know when to roll your eyes and move along. Some people are truly Essentialists who are incredibly mindful of their time (R-E-S-P-E-C-T to this crowd). Others are simply assholes who aren’t worth your time and energy. But most are somewhere in between – they’re the ones who need a little extra attention and education.
* This is particularly easy if you’ve actually experienced both sides of the situation. For example, being a parent and being part of the PTA.
To Amy Mitchell and all the other Bad Moms out there
Keep it up, girlfriends!