My InLaws are very predisposed towards dismissing new ideas, I find it very difficult to discuss new ideas or suggestions with them.

A suggestion is usually met with stubbornness, refusal, sometimes outright hostility & scorn, without the idea being properly considered. The subject becomes more and more controversial & hostile until we drop it.

The refusal is also usually backed up by spurious justifications made up on the spot, which are then stuck to rigidly the longer the conversation goes on for (they are often ridiculous and patently untrue).

An example:

Me: I was thinking that it might be simpler for you to order groceries online rather than trekking into town this week, considering [recent injury]. Or we could do the run for you, what do you think?

InLaws: Absolutely not, nope, no thanks, it's fine, we'll do it, we'll manage, you don't know what to get, you have to get in before 11AM to get the good veg because otherwise they throw them out [not true]

Me: I understand we don't normally do it but I'm sure I could write a list of what you need to get and I'll be happy to be there before 11AM if that's important

InLaws: Nope, no thank you, we'll manage, it needs done properly, you won't get there in time with the traffic, your car won't do it , no [again, not true, also silly]

(this time both of them joining in for the "no" parts)

This pattern is used every time an idea that comes from the outside is considered, and it isn't limited to accepting help. How could I introduce a new idea to people who are pre-disposed towards dismissing it, in a way that gets them to properly consider what I've said?

Located in the UK.

  • Do you think they do this out of pride, or do you think the root lies somewhere else? How alert is GM? What country are you in? Does that matter (i.e. is there a high expectation of obeying elders?) Aug 31, 2017 at 16:04
  • You might add why you want them to change. But in general, I think older generations had to be more self-sufficient, where as nowadays we depend so much on outside resources (not even considering internet resources).
    – user3169
    Aug 31, 2017 at 16:50
  • @anongoodnurse it may be pride. GM is nearly blind, mostly deaf, doesn't really get out of bed much, isn't very alert about what's going on but is quick to make vicious comments. InLaws are at the point of paranoia that she will notice some small thing.
    – nurgle
    Aug 31, 2017 at 17:15
  • @user3169 I don't want them to change exactly - I just want them to listen and consider. It extends to most things that most people say to them, not just about accepting help.
    – nurgle
    Aug 31, 2017 at 17:16
  • 1
    @anongoodnurse sorry if this is confusing, but I've thought better of it and tried to de-rant my post as it's a little too specific this way. I hope this is more useful & readable - thanks!
    – nurgle
    Aug 31, 2017 at 17:25

2 Answers 2


I recognize in you what I see in many of my own relatives. Offering highly precise and specific solutions when I don't even yet agree there's a problem to be solved. One example: years ago a boyfriend suggested that I transfer from my university to a different one closer to him. He gave no explanation or logic, just started with that, and as I kept asking why he was bringing it up he finally blurted out "I'm asking you to marry me!" The good news is, I did, and we're still married nearly 40 years later. (But I didn't transfer to a different university.)

So how about backing up 6 or 8 steps in that conversation with the probably-can't-shop-any-more person. You've decided they can't shop. You have two solutions: let them order stuff online, or you go do it. They are rejecting both for one stated reason (no-one can do it as well as I can) and probably also one unstated one (I don't want to lose my powers.) As someone who faced a frighteningly fast decline last year, unable to do many everyday things, I know how that feels and how strongly I clung to the few things I still could do. (I'm better now, if that's relevant.)

So, you start much earlier in the logic chain.

I bet [recent injury] is making it harder to look after yourself, isn't it? I mean I can see you're cooking and cleaning just like before, but I'm thinking of things like making the trek to the shop, that must take a lot out of you.

If you get agreement that yes, some things are more difficult than they used to be, you're making progress. If they aren't more difficult, then hey, just because you know a way to make things easier doesn't mean people have to accept it. After all, we all need to fill our days somehow. But let's assume your relative concedes there may be some small issue in some aspect of the current shopping situation what with [injury] and all. Now, you want to offer help, but not solutions.

Is there anything I can do to lighten your load?

They may have something in mind. If they don't, you can make suggestions. My uncle used to get all the heavy generic groceries for his mother: large cans or bottle or jars, carton of milk, case of old-people-protein-drink, and so on. These are things you can buy from a list, you're told what brand and size to get, you get it. Then she got bread, veg, and other things where her personal judgment was relevant and important. The few items she was going for fit in the basket of her mobility scooter so it was a much easier shop. While I was ill, people drove me to stores and carried things for me, but I did all the actual shopping. You could also suggest the online for the non perishable heavy stuff and that would make the trip to the actual shop faster and easier.

All these should be phrased as questions. "Would it be any help if" or "I wonder if I could" or the like. They need to be vague, too.

I wonder if it would help for me to get some of the super heavy cans and bottles stuff for you, the stuff that keeps, maybe on my way here next time? I understand it wouldn't deal with everything, but then again you're more than capable of going shopping, it's just that the heavy stuff can be awkward for you at the moment. I really would love to help make things easier for you.

Why should you be vague? They need to be the ones to come up with the precise solution to their problem. They don't want you diagnosing a problem, and solving it, and telling them that it will be this way now. They want to be in charge, for their opinion to matter - about what veg to choose as well as how the shopping gets done.

  • Thanks for this. I think you're right, I will try again from the start and have a conversation rather than plunging in with solutions.
    – nurgle
    Sep 7, 2017 at 13:31

There comes a time when we all have to allow everyone to have their own preferences, even if they're not as sensible as we think they should be. You may believe grocery pickup is the best, which is a perfectly valid opinion, but their's to decline it is just as valid. You must respect their decision just as you insist they respect yours. To suggest someone is "close-minded" merely because they choose differently than you would is, with all due respect, a bit insolent on your part.

Maybe to anyone else, or to any objective party, yours is the logical, sensible answer - but this isn't about logic. It's about personal preference. And not everyone operates in what we think should be their best interest. Just as you would undoubtedly resent someone else insisting you think a certain way, I'd encourage you to give these relatives this same, simple courtesy.

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