Politics and a Lesson in Communication

Last Tuesday President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney bickered during the presidential debate, questioning each other’s character and honesty. And at an event in New York a few days later, they poked fun during a comic interlude. Who knows what will happen at tonight’s debate?!

In an aggressive and tightly contested race, with the election less than three weeks away, the political stakes are high.

But our concern here is more about you, a card carrying member of the Sandwich Generation squeezed between parents growing older and kids growing up. We all know that harsh words hurt and an offhand remark can be damaging. If a slip of the tongue has you suffering from the foot-in-mouth syndrome, consider these communication tips:

Be direct and clear about what you have to say. When addressing a sensitive subject with your kids, state a specific goal right off the bat. Don’t be side-tracked by pointing out their oppositional behavior or character traits.

When warranted, take a stand. At times you know what’s best. When the safety of your elderly parents is at stake, hold your ground. Be patient as they grow to accept the necessary changes in their lives, even if they are unpopular.

Look at the issue from a different perspective. After expressing your concern, listen to the other reaction before planning a rebuttal. Ask questions and be empathic. As you step back, try to understand their position and how they feel.

Work out a mutually agreeable solution. If the conversation escalates, count to 10 before responding. If you think an argument will erupt, walk away. Before saying something you may later regret, first calm down and agree to resume the discussion later.

In a conflict, be non-threatening. As body language matters, calibrate your emotions. Monitor the negatives and be slow to criticize. Take some responsibility and make it a win/win situation by both of you compromising.

It may be human nature to defend against attack. But the next time you’re facing a hostile front, instead of fighting back, take the time to reflect. In a discussion about whether to extend your teen’s curfew or when your parent should stop driving, try a different approach. Listen closely and grow from these experiences. You’ll see that you can turn negative feelings into positive ones, teach a life lesson, even create a deeper connection.

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