Tag Archives: families

To Reconcile or Not to Reconcile?

 

Sometimes relationships just are not working. It can be a sibling or a parent or a child or a friend. It just is not working. Oftentimes there is a lot of hurt and sometimes the relationship ends with a bang and sometimes it just trails off. Every once in a while you might consider re-connecting. Is it the right thing to do? Or if there is no ‘right thing’, is it really worth going through the possible pain of re-connecting?

Firstly, the relationship between the people matters. If it’s friends, you might let that one go no matter how old the relationship is. But if a parent and child are involved, you might be willing to give it more of a try and be able to overlook more. It is very individual and a very personal decision.

Secondly, there is the benefit factor. Will reconstituting this relationship add or detract from your life? That is a big consideration. To be honest with ourselves, some relationships can bring joy, even if it is just in reminiscing, and some can be a drain on our lives.

Everyone has his or her own personal breaking points. For some it may be that not attending a family wedding may be the cut off point, for some it may be a funeral. While it is usually understood when there is a legitimate reason for not being there, if it is just a matter of the importance of the event not being understood or shared by the other person, it can be too hurtful to let pass.

Family may mean well in promoting continuations of relationships that just are not right for you. For instance, one sibling might feel compelled to continue communicating with a sister or brother out of guilt or genuine concern, while the other sibling has given up after realizing it was all take and no give on one side. Is this unhealthy? Not always. It’s a decision only you can make and you have to decide if you are comfortable living with it. It may be necessary to just let it taper off but respond in a friendly manner when being contacted, knowing that you might not be the one who will be initiating the connection. It is not up to someone else to pressure you to continue a relationship that you find hurtful or painful.

And sometimes it’s just better to give it time. Time can be a great healer and it can help you develop a new perspective. We have different ways of looking at relationships at different points in our lives.

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.