5 Steps to Settle Family Politics

settle family politics

Easier Said Than Done

Family dynamics can be hard work. As we start to plan for the holidays, we have a vision of how family togetherness “should” be, and we want things to run smoothly. Wouldn't it be great if we could make everyone happy? And still do what's best for ourselves and our families? Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, when it comes to extended family this is easier said than done. 

Five Simple Steps

While preparing for the holidays for my family, I've actually gotten a lot of support from using the Impact Model and the coach-approach it provides. It turns out that these five simple steps, all addressed in the context of self care, are not only magic when it comes to tackling challenging situations with our kids! It's a sure-fire structure that helps me address ANY challenging situation – even “family politics” (and THAT's saying something!).

Let me Demonstrate (and see how diplomatic I can be!):

Scenario: One member of my family was upset about a decision that felt insensitive. Rather than telling me directly, that person went to another family member, who raised an objection. This caused a triangulation, and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication. (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?)

My initial response was to get frustrated and angry. I felt manipulated and misunderstood, and it seemed like it was generating a lot of drama that I don't really have the energy for right now.  But reacting in anger wasn't going to get us very far, so I followed the self-care tip about escaping the Stress Cycle, and reclaimed my brain with a few deep breaths (and then a few more!).

Once I was calm enough to proceed, I used the Impact Model as a guide. Here's how it worked out:

Step 1. Take AIM:

First, I took some time to clearly understand about what was happening – I took AIM on the situation. I avoided adding fuel to the fire, which I would have done by defending my position or taking a stand on principle. Instead, I took the time to clarify what was really being requested (there is usually a request hidden in a complaint), and tried to keep my attention only on what needed to be resolved.

Step 2. Educate:

Then I started collecting information. What would it take to fulfill the request? Who might be able to help?  I had a couple of conversations to clarify what was possible. I confess to getting frustrated, here, so I stopped – again – and calmed myself down before picking up the phone or responding to another email.

Step 3. Plan:

Before taking action, I had to consider how to approach the situation. I decided to apply two of the four critical response areas from the model (seems they work for families, not just for ADHD kids!)

  • Positive Parenting (okay, that's Positive Family-ing, in this situation) could certainly be helpful, since I was concerned that I might get triggered again.
  • Shifting Expectations was another option –something I felt I could accomplish. If I changed my expectations, with an understanding of what was happening for my family members, then we could come to a resolution that was good enough for everyone.

Step 4: Act:

I applied those two responses. First, I found compassion for my family's member's upset, and that helped me stay (relatively) un-triggered. Then, I communicated clearly how I thought we could handle the situation so that all could stay focused on the biggest goal of all – enjoying the family time together.  I made clear requests, and tried to keep us all focused on a shared vision of “happy holidays” for all. We reached détente (for now).

Step 5. Rinse & Repeat:

As with any challenge, I suspect the conversations are not quite over on this topic, and I will be called upon in the coming week to let things ago, AVOID getting defensive, and keep focused on that “happy holiday” vision. There's going to be some tweaking, and I'm sure there will be an opportunity to re-visit the drama. But I'm going to try really hard not to let that happen, and I'm going to use every skill I've got to keep things positive and productive.

Stay Committed

At the end of the day, I want to remain calm and confident because it makes ME feel better when I do. I'm sure I will find myself back in that Stress Cycle -- these are family gatherings, after all -- but I am committed to taking care of myself, continuing to breathe deeply, to calm myself down, and start over with every upset. Whenever I Take AIM on a challenge, and stay focused my vision of what I'm trying to achieve, the Impact Model will guide me through.

The best part? My whole family wins as a result!

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