Let’s Talk

What Do I Say Exactly . . . to be a Repairer of the Breach? Part 3

Q. You talked last week about being repairers of the breach. Would you share more examples?
A. Let’s Talk! An example this week is, “What do I say exactly when there are big differences of opinions and philosophies within relationships?

This is a tough one! The land mines in family relationships seem extra important to resolve. I’ve listed some truths below. If you have others, please chime in and share with us:

  • Land mines and differences of opinion are to be expected in families, even though we seem constantly surprised when they show up! It’s normal.
  • A suggested goal is NOT to try to change the other person(s). That’s often a desire, but carries land mines of its own! We need to let that one go, both for ourselves and for the other person(s). When people feel someone trying to change them, it feels controlling. This destroys relationships instead of bringing us closer.
  • After you have asked if you can share your thoughts, another goal is to be able to communicate your information in a way that shares information but doesn’t attack the listener.
  • During your conversation, it’s helpful to make the point that the relationship is more important than the argument. You may still leave the conversation with the debate unfinished, but you will leave the door open for more conversation. In a healthy relationship, you will most likely have more opportunities. We often think it’s our one chance and take a bigger lunge than advisable.

For Deeper Reflection

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Help with a Toxic Family Member

 Q. How can I respond well and yet respectfully set some healthy boundaries with a difficult authority figure in my family during the holidays? 

 A. Let’s Talk! You are in a tough place but not an impossible one. At any age – young or old – we encounter personal boundary issues. One person’s issues bump into another person’s issues and vice versa. The overlap of our concentric circles is messy and needs work. It is common to see this dilemma increase at holiday times because of more time often spent together. With proximity and frequency, unhealed issues crop up like rampant computer pop-ups. What can we do?

As kindly as possible [so you are not talking in an offensive tone] – own your own discomfort with your difficult person in private. It will sound something like this: “I want us to enjoy this current season of time, but I need to share a concern that keeps getting in the way of my relating well with you. May I? I feel the need to distance myself from you when you ______ and wondered if we could talk about some changes that could help us to get along better.” Basically you are naming the wall between you. Then you are asking for help. Hopefully this person will consider changing his/her chosen behaviors. If he/she chooses not to make a change, you have at the very least dropped precious seed. You are not responsible for his/her mental or emotional health or for fixing the problem.

You will need to be careful not to accuse, lecture, or tell your family member what to do. This is simply you naming the barrier(s). Many families dance around the difficult family member, but this is an honest attempt for help for that person and for you. If you don’t think you can do this in person, think about writing it. I am reminded of the definition of “insanity”: it is repeating the same old behaviors and expecting different results. The truth is, you get the same results, don’t you, if something isn’t changed? You are the brave one to be willing to speak of “it.” If enough concerned family members speak up in a loving but firm way, the difficult person just might get some help.

We all long for healthy families and relationships, which is the very reason for this season. God brought us His Son for the reconciling of the world to Himself and for peace with one another. Don’t lose hope. God is in the miracle business! Ask Him to give you the words to begin.

For Deeper Reflection

Isaiah 9:6  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let’s Talk

Talking About Difficult Subjects
With Loved Ones

Q.  What are some ways to discuss difficult subjects with my family and friends?

A. Let’s Talk! We always want to share truth with others, but that is often challenging to do, to hear and receive at times. But, there is a mental outline I’d love to share with you as you make that brave choice.

Like many things, we learn best from mistakes. I had a doozie of a mistake years ago, but the outcome was The Sandwich outline the Lord gave me that I shall gladly pass along to you. The doozie was a parent-teacher conference that went south. Caving to time pressure, I shared with a mother the concerns I had for her child at a high rate of speed. Her response was, “Doesn’t he do anything right?” I was halted in my tracks, deeply grieved for my speedy delivery void of empathy. I knew better and apologized profusely to this mother. That night I cried out for God to show me a way to better share difficult material. The mental download was The Sandwich.

Picture a big burger. Let’s say the meat itself is the challenging message we want to give, but we first start the conversation with the top bun—sprinkled with as many sesame seeds (or honest kudos) as possible. Top bun language yields sincere sentences in soft words that will preface the difficult message. In the example of the parent-teacher conference, I should have said: “Your son has brought much joy to the classroom and is strong in these ways . . . and I also need to share a behavior of concern.”

Then, you slide down to the bottom bun and say something soft like, “but I know we can work together to make things better.” Then I should have asked if I could share the concern with her. Yes, that was the purpose for the meeting, but it is more respectful to ask. I have never had anyone refuse my sharing a “concern” when I asked if I could share it. That’s when you share the concern, or the meat of the sandwich, after which you can reiterate the bottom bun message.

This is just one way to share a hard comment in a loving but firm way. Said another way: tell the absolute truth in loving-kindness. The message is hard enough, but a smooth delivery helps it go down better!

 

For Deeper Reflection

Ephesians 4:15  “. . . but, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in all aspects of
Him into Him . . . .”

1 Corinthians 13:1 – 7  “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.