I am not sure why people can’t understand and agree with what I am saying.
After all, I am right most of the time.
It is painful to admit, but this is a thought I have had many times during discussions with my husband and kids. I want peace, but it seemed I desire my “rights” more. My right to be heard. My right to be understood. My right to be the boss. My right to be acknowledged. My right to be in control.
If a subject is benign, I am easily the peacemaker and mediator in the family. But if it is a topic I am passionate about, move out of the way, I will put on my boxing gloves and jump into the ring to “fight for my right” to be heard.
The transition in this communication pattern began when our boys entered into their teen years. Our normal parenting style of instruction (we will tell you what to do and you will do it) did not work anymore. My husband (Mark) and I realized we needed some new equipment for our communication tool box.
Every article, book, and class on communication, we learned from, taught the concept of “I get you”. Maybe not in those words, but the concept was the same. We learned, as our children enter their teenage years our roles shifted from teacher to coach. At this point, our kids have a clear understanding of right and wrong, thus not needed our constant reminding. It is now our goal to help them develop problem solving and leadership skills. This is why the practice of “I get you” is imperative to our success in parenting.
When we practice “I get you”, we reflect the other person’s question or thought. We encourage them to answer the question from within themselves and we TRUST in his or her ability and God’s guidance for the best outcome.
When we practice, “I get you” we do not fix,
-we do not judge, we do not criticize and we do not give advice.
“I get you” shows the person you are communicating with, he or she is uniquely created by God. It demonstrates to the individual that you have no expectation they should think the same way you do. When we tell someone we get them, it creates a confidence in his or her being that is undeterred. “I get you” tells someone I love you unconditionally.
But how easy is the practice of “I get you” in real life? My answer: About as easy as any communication situation you will face. As I described in my opening sentences, “I get you” will be a walk in the park when you are discussing a topic that you feel neutral about. But when it is a hot subject close to your heart…the true challenge begins. You can be assured that the latter is where the real work and transformation happens.
The first week Mark and I began practicing “I get you”, Mark was out of town on business. Mark would speak with our boys over the phone at night and practice “I get you”, using words of affirmation and empowering questions, instead of direction. On one particular night, Mark was elated at the benefits he felt from his new communication skill. In a conversation with our oldest son, Austin talked about some struggling in a class at school. Instead of assessing the situation and offering solutions, Mark simple offered empathy and asked our son what he thought he should do. Mark said, using “I get you” instead of trying to “fix it” really opened up the conversation and he felt more connected to our son.
My first experience didn’t go as well. It fact, it was a complete communication fail. Our youngest son, Bret came to the breakfast table on the same week, handed me his school registration form and said: “I have decided to quit band.” (Where was his understanding father when I needed him?) Right away, I knew I was in trouble. My heart and mind both shouted: I DO NOT GET HIM! How was this new communication tool supposed to work? I was lost. I immediately started telling him what a bad idea quitting was, especially for someone with such talent and time invested in the art of music. I told him how he should reconsider, and how many times I had made rash decisions at his age, QUITTING, only to look back with grave regret. (Notice, there is no, “I get you” in any of this. And it didn’t end there…I won’t pain you with the rest of it.)
My conversation with Bret ended with me dropping him off at school in tears.
My son left the car believing he could never make a good decision in his life. Not a proud mom moment. I felt like such a failure. I spent the day praying that God would remove the wounds I had inflicted on my son by not listening, by not asking questions, by not giving him an opportunity to tell me why he wanted to quit band. And by not trusting God to help Bret make the right decision. I knew I had to ask for forgiveness and allow myself to receive the grace of God. I knew God would bring healing to this conversation and He did.
When I picked Bret up, I apologized. I explained all the ways I was wrong and all the ways I wanted to start the conversation over so I could hear his thoughts about band. We talked for a long time over a homemade milk shake and in the end, Bret resolved the issue for himself, realizing he didn’t want to quit playing the Saxophone, he wanted to quit playing in three bands. Smart kid.
What I learned from my major “I get you” fail was, “quitting” is a trigger and a hot topic for me. I went straight into my “fight for my rights” mode of communication. When my kids or my husband begin a conversation that makes my stomach turn inside out, it is okay for me to say, “I want to give you the best ME, can we pick a time to talk about this later?”
What about you?
How is the communication in your house?
Do you have a “fight for your rights” communication pattern like I did?
Do you long to be heard and understood?
If this is you, please be encouraged today and know that things can change. One small step can lead to big change in your communication with the people you love!
I will be here cheering you on!