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The frustration of not being heard

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Danny Raede


Imagine this....

Dad comes home from work and tells little Johnny to take out the trash. So Johnny disappears for about 10 minutes and then says “I did it!’.

When the dad checks, the trash is literally just sitting outside the door. So dad gets frustrated. Meanwhile Johnny still thinks he fulfills his end, and this devolves into a fight.

The problem here is unclear expectations AHEAD of time about what “take out the trash” means.

In other words, if you are speaking German and I’m speaking French but we both think we’re speaking Italian, there is bound to be some arguments, frustrations and emotional big-ness simply because both parties don’t feel heard.

The fix to this is surprisingly easy: Establish a shared language, a set of shared values and shared expectations AHEAD of time, so that when these things come up, everyone knows what is expected and what the specific words actually mean to the family.

Here's what happened when I tried this with my own family:

For at least 13 years of my life, I have told (and sometimes pleaded with) my mom to stop suggesting things and giving me advice unless asked. And she kept suggesting things and giving me unsolicited advice.

It became a real point of contention, where I would hang up the phone on her, yell at her, etc. Overall, I would say we didn’t have that strong of a relationship. Then things began to shift.

2 months ago, I decided that I was going to work with my parents on the process we outline in our Foundations of Communication course.

So we literally sat on the phone for multiple hours and listed out the common words we use. Then we all came to a mutual agreement on what those words meant. Then we used that list of words to set common expectations as a family.

It was long and sometimes boring, but completely worth it.

Once we were done with that process, things began to shift. There was a lot more mutual respect whenever we’d talk on the phone. It was much more pleasant to be around them. I started to call them more often and talk in more detail.

So, we decided to plan our first vacation together in 4 years. I no longer yell at her, she no longer gives unsolicited advice. There is peace.

Here's my advice to you: Go through a similar process with your family. Sit down together and create a shared language. It'll take a few hours to do right, but it's a worthwhile investment of time that will pay of for years to come.

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