CURRENT MAGAZINE:

“Perception is everything”, is relevant in all relationships whether legal, work, family, school, church, health, political, or community.  We “see” situations from our personal views and believe how we interpret them to be the truth.  Family and school can provide safe places to better understand another person’s point of view.  If we can work through our resistance to consider a contrasting viewpoint with family and in school, then we are better equipped to be successful later in other areas such as work and community.
Some tools that have helped families respectfully accept differing views are:
** Write it out. This can be particularly helpful when members feel emotional and are having a difficult time being clear.   This can be done by individual members or by several collectively such as siblings that share a bedroom. The very act of writing out a position can be both calming and clarifying.  This can be helpful to the child who wants to participate but does not have the language skills to be understood.   It is very effective with newlyweds who are learning how to navigate their differences.
**Change chairs.  If certain family members always sit in the same seat, then swap.  This can be particularly powerful for parents and children.  Individuals may not change their minds, but there is a “softening” of presentation as family members become aware there is literally a different way of looking at issues.   The goal is:  “I can understand how you feel that way.”
**Time out.  If the volume of voices begins to raise, people are feeling angry.  It is best to take a time out.  Stopping all talk before someone says something regrettable is a vital strategy for family negotiation.  Rules for the Time Out need to be agreed upon before.  These include not driving away mad, not following another into his/her time out space,  any member including a child may call the Time Out,  a time period such as 15 minutes.
**Respectful inquiry.  Statements such as, “Help me understand how you came to that decision” convey that the person asking is genuinely interested in the other person’s thoughts.  “Did I understand what you meant?” is clarifying for everyone.  Not only is the listener validating what s/he heard, but is also clarifying  to the speaker.  Sometimes when a speaker hears exactly how words sounded, it provides time to rethink and adjust a position.  
All family members need to feel heard and that they cared about what was shared.  Deep down, spouses and children know that getting their way all the time is not realistic.  When how we feel and what we think is really heard, then compromise is possible.   Home can be the safest place on earth when we listen and stop to seriously consider another perception. Family can be the setting in which we learn how to express a differing viewpoint with confidence.
Barbara Pinkerton, M.Ed., LPC