In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High (2013), authors Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler observe how easily our eons-old defense mechanisms kick in, when we match an inappropriate or sharp comment, accusation or unkind shot with our own hasty, ugly reaction. With absolutely no clue as to what is going on in our partner’s head, the opportunity for understanding and connection is missed.
In Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding (2010), father of cognitive therapy and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Aaron T. Beck analyzes the actual dialogue of troubled couples to illuminate the most common problems in marriage.
He points to the negative thinking, disillusionment, rigid rules, unrealistic expectations, and illogical conclusions as contributing to much of the miscommunication that pulls partners apart.
Be curious rather than judgmental.
If you remember and apply this mantra regularly and consistently, you will be halfway there in improving relations with your teen.
Much negative behavior is driven by a need for attention or a need that isn’t being met. Responding with force or ultimatum reinforces negativity and invites resistance.
Many years ago I attended a powerful and memorable Reflective Listening workshop. The participants were asked to listen carefully as volunteers related a story about something in their lives the found disturbing or confusing. During the first stage of the exercise, the participants were instructed to warm-up their “listening muscles” by listening without any response or reaction whatsoever.
Are you in the middle of a dispute – personal or professional?
Be aware that if your main goal is to win, blame or change the other party, the conflict will probably escalate, no matter what skills you use. Only begin a conversation about a conflict if you are truly open to learning something new and to problem-solving.
The irony of resolving conflicts or disputes is that the greatest leverage for change comes from listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, NOT from convincing them you are right. When people feel listened to, they are more likely to try to understand you and your stance.
When all is said and done, we earn our teenagers’ trust by showing them we trust them, by being respectful, and by sharing power. Adolescents (and all children for that matter) who feel their parents are really interested in their world, feelings and experiences, are more likely to be open to learning from them.
Harri Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister (1937-2011) who helped shepherd talks that led to the historic 1998 peace agreement in Northern Ireland, died this week in Helsinki. In a speech in 2008, Mr. Holkeri cited several reasons he and his colleagues were able to guide the long-divided parties to a deal. I wondered, as I read the NYTimes obituary, whether these might be helpful in navigating our own everyday disagreements and conflicts.