Has having difficult conversations gotten more…difficult? There are now so many more complicated and fraught decisions to make. Whether you are trying to co-parent in a totally new environment, trying to support an isolated family member or just figure out how to juggle remote work and kids, Passover is rapidly approaching and whatever family dynamics and communication problems you had before have gotten even more complex. I get it.
This is a tough time. I’m in it with you, and though I’ve never been through a global pandemic, I do have experience mediating for families. Here’s what I’ve learned about having tough but important conversations in stressful circumstances:
- Decide on a goal/problem/decision point for the discussion. These are decision-oriented conversations, not therapy sessions. Be empathic and listen, but stay focused on what you are trying to resolve.
- Set reasonable expectations for yourself and for others (internally and before you start). Your family is still your family, and your sister isn’t going to suddenly stop avoiding conflict just because she’s on Zoom. Remember who you are, who they are and what your achievable goals are.
- Create some rules and norms. It might be awkward, but just saying them out loud (or sending them in an email before) is helpful. This can be logistical things, like how long you are going to spend and when it’s going to work out to be together, but also more substantive, like setting a goal and who will take on responsibilities.
- Do your research. If you can, plan together who you need to talk to (for example: doctor, landlord, travel agent) and what information you need to gather. This allows you to make progress without getting stuck on details that can feel hard to move past.
- Reach out for help. Mediators, for instance, have experience with these kinds of conversations if you feel that having a facilitated conversation would be useful.
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