How to tell your Asian parents anything in 3 simple steps (and in my case, that you’re quitting your Fortune 50 corporate job)

“Dad, I want you to know that I’ve been thinking about things and next year, I’m planning on leaving my job.” (or whatever is your big decision)

When your parent immediately barks, “No!”, don’t take it personally or argue your case. This is purely step 2: The Gentle Warning. Simply hear his or her “no”, listen to the reasons, and then change the subject.

“Dad, remember how I told you a few months ago that I was going to leave my job next year?

I’m still planning on doing that. I might change my mind, but I’m still planning on doing it.”

FULL STOP. You don’t need to explain or defend; this is simply the same Gentle Warning, but done in-person so that they can see that you’re serious. And you can add the qualifier that you might change your mind because — you might! But again, you don’t have to argue or defend your case.

  • * I remember my friends who came from individualist family cultures asking why my parents’ approval mattered and why I even needed to prepare them. This is a whole other essay, but suffice it to say that in collectivist cultures, your individual decisions reflect on the collective and as the youngest of three daughters and still unmarried, my dad still sees me as his responsibility.
  • **unhappy : If you’re just starting to feel “unhappy” at work/in life, ask yourself if there are things in your control that can make your job/life better. Do those things. And see if you’re still unhappy. I was.
  • All of these conversations would’ve been easier (maybe) if I’d know what I was doing next or had another job lined up.
  • This isn’t going to work for every parent. Some of you have parents whose identity is deeply tied up in your success or who subconsciously want to influence your life decisions. Get support from your friends, siblings or from a therapist.

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Tiffany Teng

Tiffany Teng

Former East Coast, now West Coast. Lover of books, baking and all things beautiful. Writing & reading about identity, growth, and leadership. Stanford ’07, ‘19.