People sometimes ask me for advice about communication. And to be perfectly honest, sometimes I give it without being asked.  (Note to self:  write blog about people who provide unsolicited advice. )

In the meantime, here are a few examples:

Question: Carrie’s sister Kelly is a recovering alcoholic who is a totally devoted aunt to her sister’s children. Carrie was unwilling to allow Kelly to pick the kids up and have a play date.  How can Kelly spend alone time with her young niece and nephew when Carrie’s not entirely trusting that Kelly’s drinking days were behind her?

Answer:  Kelly didn’t have to actually take the kids anywhere in order to spend time with them.  Thinking outside the box, the sisters came up with activities, such as camping out in their own backyard, and cooking lessons in their own kitchen, so that Kelly would be able to spend quality alone time with her niece and nephew, and which also completely honored Carrie’s safety concerns.

Question:  Tanya and her two daughters moved in with Jonathan and his daughter, but there were huge inconsistencies in the rules of the house. Jonathan felt resentful that Tanya favored her own daughters, but Tanya argued that Jonathan’s daughter was disrespectful and sloppy. Although the couple loved each other and wanted eventually to marry, they felt torn apart by their children.  How can they successfully blend their families?

Answer:  Invite the kids to a family meeting.  Have it at the kitchen table, cell phones off, and encourage them to talk about what’s going well, and what needs improvement.  Even a five-year-old has a voice.  Together, create a new set of rules for chores, allowances, homework, and recreational activities.  Write it down and ask every family member to sign.

Question:  Angel and Marco, never-married parents of a five-year-old, decided to break up for good.  Although their relationship ended and each of them moved on to a significant other, how can they be on the same page about co-parenting their daughter?

Answer:   A shared parenting plan, taking into consideration Angel’s new boyfriend and Marco’s new girlfriend, while maintaining a consistent routine for their child.

I think you might be catching onto a theme here. A balanced conversation (with or without the help of a Mediator) is vital in resolving a conflict.  Here are some tips about how to get started:

  1.  Make an appointment to have this conversation.
  2.  Allow a reasonable amount of uninterrupted time.
  3.  Set an agenda (in writing, if possible).
  4.  Listen without interrupting.
  5.  Figure out what positions and interests you share.
  6.  Discuss possible solutions to the conflict.
  7.  Take some time to think before arriving at a compromise.

I’m not going to guarantee that these steps will end up in a favorable resolution.  But I’m fairly certain that you’ll make forward progress.  If you’re still at an impasse, please consider asking for the help of a Mediator.  We are trained to listen and communicate.