When All Else Fails
Sometimes conversations fail to achieve the desired impact or response. You may have approached the conversation with the best of intentions, followed all the best practices for productive communication, and yet the other person remains angry and hasn’t heard anything you were trying to communicate.
You can’t force people to follow these best practices for communication and, even if you could, best practices may not be sufficient. Sometimes people simply carry too much baggage from the past into the conversation and are overwhelmed with their own issues. Sometimes the other person may simply disagree with your values, your facts, and your goals so that no matter how clear the conversation, differences will remain.
Arguments between family members can be extreme because the arguments are often more about identity than the substantive issue at hand. Arguments can escalate, with each party focusing on what separates them instead of looking for what strengthens their connection.
If this happens in a one-off situation or rarely, agree to disagree and move on. Time has a way of healing. If, however, failed communication is systemic in the relationship, you need to consider the value of that relationship in your life and if that relationship is tolerable and necessary, despite its problems, or if it is irretrievably toxic.
If the relationship is tolerable or necessary, then consider what boundaries and rules of engagement need to be developed to sustain the relationship so that it is less problematic and has the opportunity to develop into something better. If it is toxic, understand the implications of severing the relationship and consider how that might be done━and how it can be undone in the future.
We believe strongly in the importance of family relationships, but we know that these relationships require work. We can pick our friends, but we can’t pick our family. How you treat family in your generation models how your children will treat family in the future, and you may be on the receiving end of that treatment one day. This holiday season, try your best to communicate and to accommodate differences when they occur. Above all, value your family because they are the only family you have.