When impacting differences hit close to the heart, such as in your own extended family unit, they become especially hard to resolve. Not every family member is going to see and experience life’s issues the same way.
Studio 5 Contributor, Dr. Liz Hale, offers advice to manage family differences.
· Let’s take a common but grueling difference: politics. Let’s say you’re a conservative Republican marrying into a Liberal Democratic family?
FIND COMMON GROUND
Instead of going nose to nose and toe to toe over politics, find what you do share in common (and sometimes you really have to dig deep!) Sometimes the best you can do is say, “I love that we are both so passionate over politics. I appreciate how strongly you love this country and care deeply about its roots and its future. I LOVE that about you!”
· Another common fall-out occurs when a couple tries and to join two partial families; differences oftencome between step-parents and step-children.
MEMORIZE MENTAL MANTRA
Words are powerful, even when they’re unspoken. There is a powerful Hawaiian mantra that became famous for healing an entire psychiatric unit in Hawaii. It’s called Ho’Oponono. The manta is simply, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you!” When we take 100% of responsibility of our lives it is powerful!
· In our own families we often marvel just how different we are in style and personality, yet we share the same gene pool! How can we bridge the gap when, for instance, my relative sees everything as black-and-white and I see everything as grey?
LISTEN WITHOUT LECTURING
When we have a discussion with family members and their view and anxiety is heightened, it would do me no good, and would certainly harm the relationship, if I said, “Would you just calm down! Everything is going to be all right! We’ll figure this out! RELAX!” Instead, I have to soothe my own tendencies, take deep breaths, and just listen and say, “I can see your point”. Almost without fail, the unopposed side self-corrects. In other words, you’ll often hear, “But, I guess it’s not that bad; it could certainly be worse.
· Parents often feel they should continue to guide and instruct their children even after their children become parents. It can be difficult to manage differing views between generations and in-laws.
“YOU COULD BE RIGHT!”
When someone says, “I think you’re doing it wrong….” whatever the subject matter is, the only response I suggest is, “You could be right”. You could leave it at that or, if you’re curious to understand and hear more you could say, “And tell me more about your suggestion?” Good people disagree! Both parenting and disciplining techniques could be effective. Your family member could be right; and they could be wrong. However, when our automatic response is “stay out of this; I’m the parent here,” it breeds content and malice. You are not the only one who has a new title following the birth of your child. Be curious not furious with another’s advice. When you adopt a “they-could-be-right belief,” you are open to conversation and exchange; otherwise, the door slams shut on the dialogue AND your heart.
· Whatever we focus on grows and loving another speaks more about us than them.
LOVE BECAUSE YOU LOVE
Love because YOU love, not because someone earned or deserves it. Everyone you meet is in some way your Superior. Find it and focus on it. Speak to others about it. Your own inner ear is always eavesdropping. Whatever comes out of your mouth, others hear and so do you! You can soften or harden your feelings towards another by what you speak about them. When a person loves, it speaks more about them than the object of their love. When a person hates, it speaks more about them than the object of their hate.