Common Sense Services

Dont let challenges be challenging

There’s an unwritten assumption that mediators don’t have rows. There’s another one that mediators don’t lose their tempers. Guess what? It simply ain’t so.

This time last year I had a challenging family holiday. Brought on in part by my own choices and behaviours. After we returned I gave myself a good talking to and identified 5 lessons that I needed to learn.

So, as I move towards this year’s family holiday I thought it would be worth revisiting the lessons in preparation.

Let go of “trying” to make everything okay for everybody.
We have a new niece, she will be 2 months old when we go on holiday. Her arrival will mean that things are substantially different. For her mum and dad, her five-year-old brother, her grandparents and indeed all of us who will be sharing a house with such a tiny person. Even with a completely fair wind there will be challenges for us all. I won’t be able to make everything okay, for everyone, all the time.

Just listen.
We don’t see each other as often as we would all like. My parents live in Sussex, my brother and his family in Hertfordshire and David and I are in Norwich. So, this is a great opportunity for us to talk and listen to each other. We all face some challenges in our lives – Mum and Dad are beginning to live with the limitations of age. My brother and sister-in-law have 2 small children and 2 full time demanding careers. David works full time in education and   I am running my own business and working with a challenging and amazing charity. We will all be bringing all of that with us and we need to find space to just listen to each other.

I am not responsible for other people’s behaviour. 
Not everybody behaves as we would have them wish every moment of the day. I can’t make them do or be anything! All I am responsible for is what I choose to say and what I choose to do.

Ask questions so you know what is really going on.
When it feels tense (and families do) its better to ask what the issue is rather than make our own hot and unhappy little assumptions. Any thoughts or, worse, speech that starts “You always…” or “He never…” need editing quickly.  We could try “What is it that has made you feel that way?” Or “It feels to me as though something has made you angry.  Is that right?” 

Manage expectations (including your own) and you reduce the opportunity for conflict. 

I am not expecting our week to be unalloyed joy. I am not expecting it to refresh me in mind, body and spirit. I am not expecting everyone to be happy all the time. I am hopeful though that we will be able to say as we pack up to leave “Let’s do this again next year.”

Happy Holidays All!