Tag Archives: communication

Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness was in the news a couple of months ago. It seems that Taylor Swift has forgiven Kanye West for interrupting her acceptance speech at the Grammy’s last year. You were unaware of this news? I certainly was until the op ed pieces started coming out commenting on this news event. Commentators discussed whether they thought it was a magnanimous gesture or whether it was deserved as well as several thoughts on forgiveness in general. Forgiveness can be a sensitive issue for people. It is fraught with emotion and involves letting go.

Apologies, forgiveness… we have all had to grapple with circumstances where it was too hard to forgive or we are unable to let go of a slight, hurt, or situation that was too devastating to let pass. In some cases, these go back in time and have festered making it even more difficult to find it within ourselves to overcome our harsh feelings.

How often do we say we’re sorry without meaning it or resist saying we’re sorry at all? How often have we rejected an apology because we were unable to forgive?

Most of us learn about forgiveness growing up. What our families teach us or what we learn through our religious training may shape how we are able to process these feelings later on. As with all learned behavior, we learn from example, either good ones or bad.

The Jewish High Holidays are called the Days of Atonement. During this time Jews are asked to reflect on those they have wronged during the year and extend apologies but with specific guidelines for how those apologies are given. It’s not enough to just say a general ‘I’m sorry’. People are asked to think about how they have specifically wronged someone and apologize and seek forgiveness for that action or those particular words that hurt or offended another person.

Apologies are always expected from children but are parents offering apologies to children for behavior that they later regret or realize was inappropriate or hurtful? It is worth considering that children see what is patterned for them by their parents. Learning how to extend a sincere apology and learning forgiveness can help people get past a hurdle that allows them to move on. Maybe we cannot always forget some slights or hurt, but we may be able to forgive the person and not let it burden our lives as we get older and enable us to leave the lines of communication open.

 

Different Conversational Styles: A Recipe for Conflict

A Recipe for Conflict: Different Styles of Communication

Deborah Tannen, a linguist, has written extensively on issues of communication and the difficulty people have talking to one another. She’s written about communication between couples, among families, between mothers and daughters and between sisters. It’s so interesting for me to read these. I relate to them from my own family situations, have seen my friend’s families reflected in her writing, and, as a mediator working with families, I hear the voices of people with whom I have worked.

The points Ms. Tannen make are so relevant to our lives. She writes about the power relationship that plays a role in interaction with mothers and daughters. How often have we bristled at the criticism from our mothers, whose approval we seek, while accepting the same remarks from our friends? While many people have written about sibling rivalry, Tannen writes about how that rivalry and the roles assigned to us as children effect our communication as adults.

Through our mediation practice, we see how the competitiveness of sisters, starting from a young age, impedes their ability to talk to one another without the past getting in the way. This so often boils down to the proverbial, ‘Mom always liked you best’, a conversation stopper for siblings. And then there are the labels that are given to children and stick with them even when they are adults. Giving kids titles like ‘the smart one’ or ‘the talented one’ is likely to cause the resentment which surfaces over the years and obstructs any meaningful communication. Each sibling is an individual and has his/her own conversation style. Some people are reserved when they talk, others aggressive, some emotional and these style differences, when interacting, can lead to ineffective communication. Sometimes the conversations cannot get past the style to the substance. After childhood, siblings can avoid dealing with these life-long antagonisms but later in life they may resurface and interfere with necessary conversations.

As mediators, we have seen siblings who are now confronted with the need to talk about serious issues regarding their parent’s well-being or estate matters. The inability to get past the old rivalries, resentments or ‘he said, she said’ conversations keeps them from being able to talk, have relationships with each other and their nuclear families, and deal productively with issues that require a resolution. For some people, a facilitated conversation is the best options for preserving relationships, resolving conflicts, making joint decisions, and being able to move forward, rather than letting the past get in the way. Tip: Consider reading Ms. Tannen’s book before those difficult conversations and make an outline that can guide the points you want to make and sticks to the issues.