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My mother is very relational. The people she knows and interacts with are important to her, and she has a natural inclination to value opinions and information presented to her by those people over other sources.

While I value input from people I know, I tend to take a more skeptical approach to new information. My inclination is to attempt to assess the quality of a source, and cross-reference information across multiple sources.

This difference in approach has led to conflict between us.

As an example, we've been trying to plan a family vacation together. For various reasons, the timing of our vacation coincides with the rainy season in the location we're considering visiting. I found out online that this rainy season has a period of several weeks where the rain is much less severe, and there is typically a good amount of sun.

The sources of my information (several travel blogs, some of which are written by residents of the region) suggest traveling in late July/early August for avoiding the worst of the rainy season.

My mother's source (a travel agent located in an area far removed from the region we're planning on visiting) stated that early- to mid- June is the best time to travel in the rainy season.

When this difference came up on our conversation, I said:

It sounds like we're getting contradictory information. I think we should do some more research, and see if we can find out which is correct before we make a decision.

My mother's response was:

I think the woman who told me June knows what she's talking about. Her family owns a couple of properties there, so I know she knows what she's talking about. June is the best time to go.

I could just give in and agree, but I know that if we go in June, and it does wind up being too rainy, my mother will complain constantly (they don't want to go in the rainy season at all, but because my son is in school, we can only travel during the rainy season). Even though traveling in the "dry" portion of the rainy season doesn't guarantee we'll get some sunny weather, I want to maximize our chances of having good weather.

I also think there's a difference between someone who lives in the region (or multiple someones), and someone who doesn't, but whose family owns a couple of properties in the region. Especially when that somebody is a travel agent trying to sell a vacation package.

However, when I suggested it would still be worthwhile to do more research, my mother got upset and changed the subject.

How can I productively question word-of-mouth information that my mother presents as fact?

  • curious, what's the rainy season for this country? I don't see it stated specifically. Does early-mid June fall into the rainy season, just like late July/early August does? Also, what's keeping you from doing the additional research anyway, and then present your arguments again? And might your mom have other reasons for wanting to go in June then just 'the lady told me'? If the information is matching her preferences, it's going to be harder to convince her that what she wants to believe might be incorrect. – Tinkeringbell Apr 8 '18 at 14:53
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    @Tinkeringbell I believe the rainy season is April to October. I can do additional research, but based on previous experience she will dismiss it because it contradicts what someone she knows said. Her preference is winter, not summer, so the only reason she is pushing for June over July is because the travel agent told her it is the best time. – Beofett Apr 8 '18 at 15:47
  • Does she have a personal relationship with the travel agent? Are they friends, or? – apaul Apr 8 '18 at 16:33
  • @apaul the relationship is that they've booked trips with the agent before. As far as I know, that is the limit of the relationship. But my mother is very much focused on "who you know". The fact that the agency is family-run, and that the family owns resort properties, elevates their importance, and therefore credibility, in my mother's eyes. – Beofett Apr 8 '18 at 18:31
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Ask the word-of-mouth source to explain the discrepancies

If you take your mother at her word that her source is an expert on the topic, then the source should be familiar with these differing opinions and should be able to support their position. This is particularly true in this case, since the advice is being given in a professional capacity, rather than a social setting.

So ask the travel agent why the sources you've found are wrong. (Frame the question as "why are these sources wrong" rather than "are these sources wrong" to hopefully avoid a defensive response).

Your path from there depends on the type of response they give, but if you are not satisfied then bring your case back to your mother not as "the travel agent is wrong" but instead as "the travel agent is untrustworthy/unprofessional" (whatever adjective best fits the conversation you had with them.

Find your own word-of-mouth source

Find a source of the type that your mother trusts more and have them contradict the travel agent. This is, of course, going to be tricky to do depending on what makes your mother trust a source.

If you do find such a source, then it's important the build your mother's trust in them before bringing up the information that contradicts her current source, otherwise she's going to be a lot less receptive towards trusting the new source because of the conflict of interest with her trust towards the old source.

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You won't be able to change your mother's mind. Not going to happen.

There are two things that can work. You can go to that travel agent. Tell her that you know one hundred percent she gave your mother awful advice. Tell her that if she doesn't give your mother a call and corrects herself, you will be telling everyone and their dog that this particular travel agent is responsible for spoiling yours and your families holiday. Not a nice thing to do, and it may fail, and your mother better not find out about it, but it might work.

The other method is to rope in other "trusted" sources of truth (you are just a son or daughter, not a trusted source, your opinion counts for nothing) and let them give their truth to the mother. "You are going to X in June? Better pack your snorkel then. Because an umbrella isn't going to help. Everyone knows June is rainy season. Oh, your travel agent says you'll be fine? She should know better than that. ".

  • Good advice, thanks, and I've upvoted. I should mention that I'm absolutely open to the idea that the agent is right. I'm just not willing to accept that solely because my mother "knows" her. – Beofett Apr 8 '18 at 18:41

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