By Nancy Friedman, Speaker, Customer Service Expert, President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training

Let me introduce you to my mother, Esther. Or Lady Esther as one of my friends named her. Probably because she was so very queenly. Esther is long gone now, yet seldom has a day gone by without me having a thought of her in my head.

Lady Esther was a quiet woman and while she smoked as I was growing up, I never once heard her swear. (NOTE: This is NOT one of the things I learned from her, unfortunately.)

She rephrased those “no, no” words into “Oh sit” instead of you know what.

And she rephrased SOB. Into “son of a bitz.” She never told an off color joke. Laughed at them, but never told them. Sorry, again, I didn’t learn from her in that area.

But here are some of the things I did learn around the dinner table and I carry with me. I shared them with my daughter in the hopes she shares with her daughter and so on. I’ve made so many good friends on LinkedIn and I want to share them with you. Read on:

1.  “There’s very little new; just new people doing it.”

Man, this phrase has saved many a day for me. It’s kept my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds throughout my speaking career. She seldom made ‘absolute’ statements; said it saved her from being embarrassed many a time. It’s become one of my very favorite lines.

2.   “A little water never hurt anything.”

Fact: Growing up kids are clumsy. Right? Water was a staple at our dinner table and easily once a night someone tipped a glass over onto something. Then out came her famous line, no matter what the water spilled on. One time we were at a lovely wedding. She was all dressed up and a guest (adult) spilled water all over her. What did she say to the person? Right. “I’m fine. Water never hurt anything.” It always helped the situation. 

3.   “Put your husband first. Above everything.”

While she told me this in my teens, it obviously didn’t come into play until I was married. I had been engaged before and when the engagement was broken I realized I wouldn’t have been able to put him first. Sage wisdom. 

Putting your spouse first has helped make my marriage a solid one. Whenever I was in a situation that put me between my family requests and my husband’s, I’ve always taken my husband’s side – at least in public. If I feel he’s wrong, it becomes a private issue. Like management, praise in public, criticize in private.

Lady Esther told me she and dad would be gone one day and the kids, my brother and me, would move out and find their own best friend. Maybe even move away. We had a small family. She said, “If I make my husband my best friend, my first priority, I’d reap the benefits all through my marriage. You nailed that one Esther!

4.  “Never talk bad about your mother in law. It’s HIS mother. It was his first love and he loves her too.”

That was hard. I wasn’t close with my husband’s mother (or father). And I always wondered how my mother lived through her mother-in-law coming to live with them. I never heard her complain. Not once. Think about that. Two women in the same small apartment. Two women in the same kitchen. Two women loving the same man. Two women coming from different backgrounds and never a bad word about her. My parents’ marriage was the strongest I’d ever seen. She always said great things about her mother-in-law, especially to my dad. Smart woman.

5.  “Accept people with their faults and hope they’ll accept you with yours.”

I heard this every time I complained about a friend in high school. She does this or he does that. Faults I would find with someone and out would come this mantra. What was funny is when I was a teen I didn’t think I had any faults. It was like, “Those of you who think you’re perfect aggravate those of us who are.” Now that’s my mantra to my kids. I learned I had a few faults.

6.  “Don’t brag too much about your kids. You never know what they’ve done.”

One day while overhearing my mother talking with her friends and playing cards I heard the ladies bragging about their daughters. Esther was always quiet. I didn’t hear her brag about me. Nothing about dates, being popular, good daughter, grades. Well ok, she didn’t have too much to brag about on that end or anything. She just listened to them blah, blah, blah.

So I questioned her that night. “Mom, this afternoon I heard the ladies bragging about all my friends and you didn’t say anything about me. Why?” “Because,” she said, “I’m not sure what you did today.” And she was right again. One of the girls mothers who was bragging so long and so hard about her daughter, who she thot was so perfect, was dating a boy she wasn’t supposed to. Her mother didn’t know that. Point was, those who brag so much about their own kids can’t possible know everything they did that day and most every kid does something parents aren’t supposed to know about. (Yes, even yours.)

Right again mom.

While I hadn’t done anything wrong that day, there were things I had done I wouldn’t be so proud of to have my folks find out. Not that day, but it had happened. So rather than have her friends say, “Oh Esther, you’re wrong. I know Nancy did such and such,” she simply kept quiet. I do the same thing. I hear friends brag about their kids and I know the truth. But they blindly blah, blah, blah on about them.

7.  “Maybe you’re right.”

It was the easiest to learn. This phrase normally stops any argument. And the MAYBE is your protection. Really works in a marriage too and often works well at work, with friends or pretty much anywhere. Once you tell someone, “Well, maybe you’re right” they really don’t have anywhere to go. I LOVE this one!

8.   “I told you so.”

Admittedly, I need to bite my tongue on this one. I don’t like me when I say it. It’s so easy to say. And yet it’s so nasty to say. We all like to show and feel we were right. When my mother asked me not to say it I really didn’t understand it. I was right. Why couldn’t I say it? I felt like my freedom of speech was removed.

She explained if I were right, the right folks would know it without me saying it; without putting it in their faces. ‘I told you so-ers’ were not very popular she said. So I stopped saying it. And what do you know? I got more of, “Hey Nancy, you know, you were right” comments. It felt good.

Why the RED STAR? Because the name ESTHER means STAR. What did your mother tell you that you’d like to share?