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Communication hacks for parents

Throughout my years of working with couples, there is one thing that has helped improve relationships no matter what the problem is that they came in with. That thing is learning a script for addressing a conflict. I’ve developed a script that want to share with you, and I encourage you to try it. When should you consider using this? When emotions are running high, when opinions vary, or when you feel like communication is blocked. The purpose of this exercise is to reduce conflict and strengthen relationships. Give it a try! It’s better than doing the same thing over and over that isn’t working.

The Script

The Speaker:

1. Ask the listener if they are willing and able to talk right now.(If not, then plan a time in the next 24 hours)

2. Remind yourself and the listener that the purpose of this talk is for conflict resolution, connection, and because the relationship is very important to both of you.

3. Deliver the message with respect for the listener and yourself:

A. Share what you have observed about the listener’s behavior through your five senses. “I noticed…..” A. Allow the listener to tell you what they heard. If they understand, move on. If they don’t, then share again with patience.

B. Share what you imagine is going on for the listener in regards to this issue. This needs to be as empathetic as possible. “I imagine…”

C. Share what assumptions or stories you’ve made up about this issue that bother you.

D. Share what its been like to experience all of this emotionally.

E. Express what you need from the listener.

The Listener:

1. If you are willing and/or able to listen, agree and invite the speaker to share. Otherwise commit to finding a time within the next 24 hours.

2. Agree, if you can, that the purpose of the discussion is to build relationship and to resolve conflict.

3. Listen:

A. Hear and seek to understand the speaker’s observations, and reflect back to them what you understand (Speaker step A).

B. Confirm or correct what the speaker has imagined about what it’s been like for you (Speaker step B).

C. Listen to understand the speaker’s experience: their thoughts, assumptions, emotions. Listen for what the speaker needs from you and reflect back what you understand about their experience and what they need (Speaker step C,D & E).

4. Seek more information. Ask questions. Invite more sharing from the speaker.

5. Sincerely thank the speaker for valuing the relationship enough to speak their truth.

Next Steps:

¯ When mutual understanding of the speaker’s need(s) is achieved, start discussing steps to meet the speaker’s needs.

¯ If in the future, the conflict has been resolved and the needs are met — celebrate!

¯ If the proposed solution isn’t working, then go back to discussing steps to meet the speakers needs. Stay committed to meeting each other’s relationship needs.

¯ Make sure the speaker and listener roles are shared in the relationship. Take turns.

Patrick Ward is a family therapist.

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