I imagine that each one of us knows of someone who isn’t speaking to a brother or sister. My dad and one of his brothers didn’t speak to each other for decades, and they never chose to reconcile. As a family Mediator, I hear stories about long-standing feuds. Everyone has a valid reason for holding a grudge. Like the sister who stopped speaking to her brother because she assumed he caused their mother to have a stroke. Or the brother who was ostracized by his siblings when he came out to the family. Sometimes, though, that anger becomes burdensome, silly, irrelevant, or unjustifiable. Sometimes the death of a parent or other close relative triggers a reset of your grudge-holdings. That’s when it’s time to clear the air and let it go.
If you don’t have the opportunity to seek the help of a family Mediator, you can take a few steps to make peace on your own. Here are five points for you to consider:
POINT #1: Make the first move. Being the initiator takes courage, but it’s one of those “nothing ventured – nothing gained” situations. Ask to set an appointment with your brother for an uninterrupted, meaningful conversation. Tell him you’re as much interested in listening as you are in talking, and you’d like the opportunity to meet. If you’re apprehensive about blind-siding him with a phone call, you can either email him, or use an app to be immediately transferred to his voicemail. And suggest that if you don’t hear back from him in a day or two, you’ll try again.
POINT #2: Once you’ve scheduled the conversation, whether in person or by phone, make a deal with yourself to stay calm during the entire conversation, no matter what.
POINT #3: Because you called the meeting, you should probably begin. It’s okay to go into the history, but not in boring detail. Since you’re not rewriting “War and Peace,” it doesn’t matter whether he hurt your feelings on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Make your point and move on.
POINT #4: In the spirit of giving your brother equal time, be a good, calm listener. In fact, be a better listener to him than he was to you. How do you do this? By repeating back key points he’s made, so that he’s absolutely certain you heard him.
POINT #5: Once you’ve each had an equal opportunity to “state your case,” and by that I mean, presenting the way the conflict looks in your own eyes, and how it makes you feel, it’s time to offer a solution. Obviously, the specifics are up to you, but also remember that moving forward without resolution is another a viable approach. You can successfully agree to disagree as long as you’re able to let it go.
And if, after you’ve given it a wholehearted attempt, the reconciliation doesn’t materialize, you always have the option of letting it go anyway, by replacing your anger with indifference or, even better, forgiveness. Peace of mind can never be overrated.