The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Communication hack. Three Keys to Celestial Communication!

Many families struggle with how to discuss hot button topics.  Here’s 3 key communication tips that really work!

Remember the old adage of “fake it until you make it?” Me too! While it may work in Sports, this advice is the worst you can receive when it comes to communication.  Here’s the real truth about communication, including how to make it work with your spouse and your child!
Talking with family members about politics during an upcoming election year makes all the sense in the world. What a great time to talk about your values whether you agree totally on the political views of your spouse or partner. Let’s say you’re a huge Donald Trump supporter but your spouse is thinking a 2017 intro of Madam President (Clinton) sounds amazing.  Big difference! Yes, but not all that different in values. Both support the deeply held American values of honesty, country, spirituality, patriotism, etc. Talk to your family about these critical similarities highlighting that no matter who wins the election in 2016, you’ll be supporting these deeply engrained American values to the nth degree!
 
Discussing politics can seem like an intractable nightmare if handled poorly.  For spouses or partners that are on the opposite fence politically, they absolutely need to set some ground rules. First off, the discussion isn’t personal.  It’s about politics. Not about where to go out for dinner tonight, how your child is doing, or what gifts to buy for Christmas.  Politics can’t come between spouses, period.  Second, totally stay objective. Lastly, agree to disagree. It’s not about being “right” as much as it is about balancing who the couple is first…and modeling for the children how mature adults manage differences. In Seattle, not everyone cheers only for the Seahawks. There’s likely a very brave Patriots fan in there somewhere. Differences are a plus, not a feared obstacle to be danced around or avoided at all costs.  
 
Tell tale signs of communication going south are the classic non-verbal warning signs of arms folded, darting eyes, or grimaced face. Voice volume and intonation are also huge in this arena as raised volume and shaking voice are indicators of a potential bad situation.  If you detect these, taking a break and revisiting later (if safe) is highly recommended. As a mental health therapist with 15+ years experience, observing people in a counseling session is what I do. I’ve learned to pick these signs up almost as second nature.  We can do the same in family situations. Understanding these signs is critical and should be acted upon quickly and supportively, i.e., take that break!  

When to talk about tough subjects like politics in Salt Lake City?

Absolutely critical to communication success is choosing the right setting. While the dinner table might be nice option, the “one on one” value could be completely lost by the distraction of the meal, the food, side conversations, etc. I’m actually a huge fan of choosing a much better option.  For example, your teenagers are absolutely going to abhor the lecture or face to face “staring” interaction. For much better success outcomes take your teens to their favorite restaurant and discuss everything from their BFF to their Bae, local media to their favorite extracurricular activity such as school sports. You now have a great opportunity to discuss politics or other challenging subjects such as values, dating, or even premarital sex. This approach can really be refreshing as you’re allowing your teen to have their space and their opinion. Oh and make sure to ask the key questions over their favorite or amazing dessert. Nice!  
 
The key here is too NOT impose your political  or communication will on your spouse, child or teen. It’s to facilitate open, safe and insight producing communication. We call it a discussion for a reason…not a lecture! Open interaction is critical and is positively fostered when the mood of the conversation is safe, yet real. It’s absolutely okay to let your family know that you’re a Republican and that their mother is Democrat. Further, that you may vote for Trump and your wife is leaning towards the probable Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton. 
 
If you feel that you’re regressing and becoming too much of a controlling or a directive jerk, pull back and chill for awhile. It’s also helpful to remember that you’re helping your kids develop their sense of self by making up their own minds politically and otherwise. Your role as parent to teenagers isn’t to dictate to them its to help them make up their own minds with objective information. I believe its to be a facilitator of the convo initially and then a participant and not a director. Click here for more great tips! http://englandcounseling.org/communication-in-marriage-it-aint-always-easy-salt-lake-city/
 
Quick story.  Many years ago as I was serving a mission for my church in the east coast.  We were knocking on doors and a nice middle aged man came to the door of his home.  As near as I can recall he responded to our introduction as missionaries as follows. “Young men, there are three things that I don’t discuss. Religion, politics and the virtue of my neighbors wife.”  He then politely backed up and shut the door. I’ve pondered this statement often over the years and find it humorously germane to our topic.  Nice!   

Holiday communication problems made easy!

Please also remember that the Holidays aren’t always holly or jolly.  The hustle and bustle can actually be a hassle. I’ve coined the term “Hellidays” to describe how many families feel around the Holiday time frame. Stressors such as time, money, presents, etc., make conflict at Christmas rather inevitable. To be successful, spouses or partners need to discuss what their goals are for the Holiday time frame and what they will do when they feel off task or focus. We also need to remember that success starts from the top down.  Thus, if mom/dad have their act together and communicate well this will filter down to the children.  The exact opposite is true in that stress filters down as well.  Here are three suggestions:
 
#1) “Me” time: We all need to take great care of ourselves during the Holidays. Mom can’t spend all of her time shopping, baking and wrapping presents. Dad can’t live at the office as an excuse to pay for the expensive gifts. Getting time to regroup is huge.  Whether its working out, hiking, or biking, “me” time can make the Holidays very successful. 
#2) No Conflict! Discuss as spouses how to manage conflict before in arises.  Whether it’s about money, the kids, or just feeling ignored due to the hustle and bustle, make sure that you address these issues right away.  Your happiness during Christmas 2015 may depend on it.
#3) Have fun! The Holidays need to be fun, connective, and memorable.  Work hard to make sure your spouse, your kids, and You connect often. Don’t get swallowed up in the hectic nature inherent with Christmas and the New Year 2016. Be fiercely loyal to you and your family. You’ll find much more peace and happiness this year if you do!
Recognizing that communication is much more about working with your spouse or child to communicate well rather than acting like a director of Hollywood film set is critical.  Rather, let the communication flow and go with it rather than dictate it.  This just makes sense. It will also just make sense to those that mean the most to you.  Try it. It absolutely works!

Michael Boman, LCSW, blogs often on subjects related to improving your marriage, family, pornography problems, addictions, and family communication.  He is the Clinical Director for England Counseling Services and LifeSTAR Oquirrh.  He welcomes your comments in the Salt Lake City, Magna and Tooele areas at [email protected]