Sometimes, I catch myself acting the way my parents did when I was younger.
Sometimes that's good. Sometimes, that's not so good.
Being our first teachers, parents impact our behaviors significantly. Youngsters are adept at adopting behaviors they observe and then making them part of their way of being.
Sometimes, that's a problem.
My father had strong opinions and he could be overbearing in voicing them. Mom had great patience. She spent a lot of energy trying to soothe, and making sure other people's points of view were understood.
I wonder: Did she ever feel powerless to change our family dynamics?
These are crucial conversations, or, rather, conversations about high stakes situations between two or more people where opinions vary and emotions run strong.
Maybe it's that discussion with your boss about a desired promotion. Or maybe it's when your child arrives home an hour after curfew. It could be the necessary discussion with a neighbor who plays loud music when you're trying to sleep. Maybe that conversation with your spouse didn't start out as a crucial conversation, but somewhere along the line tempers flared and it became one.
Crucial conversations are times when the outcomes of talking or not talking have a significant impact. And because we have a lot invested in their outcomes, crucial conversations can become emotionally charged.
In our complex and interconnected world, the person who is skilled at handling high stakes conversations is more likely to succeed than someone who is not. Good things can happen when people sit down and talk about troublesome topics without feeling angry, hurt or hopeless. Problems can be resolved, misunderstandings cleared and behaviors changed.
My relationship with one of my teenage sons changed as a result of a conversation; it changed when I became aware of the story I was telling myself about his behavior. By story, I mean the things I told myself to justify raising my voice, pointing my finger and attempting to intimidate him into good behavior. I told myself he was devaluing me by not contributing to household chores and giving evasive answers to my questions. In that story, I play a victim. If he told half-truths or lied, my feelings of hurt and disappointment dissolved into yelling.
I justified my actions, telling myself he brought it on by being disrespectful, and, so, I became the villain. The pattern I learned as a child became the pattern that I followed with and was teaching him.
None of this led to resolution, which left me feeling hopeless.
Luckily, my parents also taught me the importance of self-improvement. I was reading about crucial conversation skills when I learned that adolescents generally lie to their parents because they don't want to disappoint them. That opened by eyes.
And so I began a conversation with my son by stating my hope for our relationship. I want a time in the future where we trust each other. I want you to allow me to hug you again. I can't adequately describe the hope and vulnerability that crossed his face when I said those words. I want to find a better way to communicate, I said. I asked: Would this be a good time to talk? I said, I raise my voice and get into a power struggle with you. I told him of specific behaviors he did that contributed to the problem. You told me you had completed the chores, but when I got home I found that you had not. I kept to the facts, avoiding the use of judgmental labels. I told him I didn't want to make his decisions for him, but I did want him to be successful. I was concerned that the lack of follow through could be a pattern for his life.
Then I listened. Happily, that was our changing point.
When concepts from Crucial Conversations training are used, whether it is by workers, family or community members, there is a positive ripple through our businesses, our families, our neighborhoods.
This is why Power UP YOUth is bring Crucial Conversations training to Webster City. We want our community to flourish.
Crucial Conversations was created after social scientists studied 100,000 people and found that at the heart of all chronic problems, be it in our organizations, our teams or our families, there were crucial conversations the ones we are either not holding or not holding well. They studied the exceptional people who could talk about emotionally charged topics and resolve issues and learned that effective communicators have distinct behaviors in common. That is the foundation for the Crucial Conversations training.
This award-winning training will be Sept. 4 and Sept. 18. The sessions are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hamilton County Extension Office, 311 Bank St.
Thanks to the financial support of Iowa State University Hamilton County Extension and Outreach and Power Up YOUth, this training is available at a reduced cost. And, thanks to the generosity of several community members, scholarships are available for parents of K-12 students. Scholarship applications and enrollment forms can be found on the events page at www.powerupyouth.com. If you would like to donate toward a scholarship, contact Power Up YOUth at 832-4153 or send a donation to P.O. Box 534, Webster City, IA.
We are all works in progress, working toward becoming better people. And stronger people build stronger communities. Think of the kind of community we can build if people are able to talk with one another about high stakes issues and resolve them in positive ways. When that happens, we are all winners.