“Last night I blocked my sibs on line who were finding fault with any who disagreed with them. I just could not stand the arguments and disagreements that our family was having over our different church affiliations and opposite political sides. We were yelling at and criticizing each other. Our family
has always been very close. We were raised in a spiritual home and all love the Lord. However, as spouses have been added and our parents passed on, several siblings have joined other denominations and assumed opposite political stances which is tarnishing our closeness. What should I do?” J
Tensions afflict everyone at some time in their lives, with siblings, neighbors, extended family, in the workplace, church, schools and clubs. We all discover that some people are really touchy and difficult to deal with. Although the majority does not have the gift or knack for dealing with people-problems requiring diplomacy, the minority, with determination, a little patience and practice can successfully add diplomacy communication-skills to their repertoire. Honing diplomacy is a win-win situation in maintaining warm relationships with family and friends. Hopefully, the following examples and guidelines will bridge some gaps and pave the way in sweetening and salvaging precious friendships. A reminder--that diplomacy needs most often erupt or happen unexpectedly as the March 27 blog Details discussed.
Diplomacy Defined: The art of helping groups to get along and even work together. If you have a gift for diplomacy, you can get bickering siblings to cooperate. Placating the angry customer required delicate diplomacy. Tact and subtle skill in dealing with people so as to avoid or settle hostility. The skill for dealing with people effectively in a positive way. Trying to resolve a tense situation is an example of a time when diplomacy is necessary.
Synonyms: courtesy, respect, good manners, behavior, politeness, gentility, grace, social graces, gentleness, soft tongue, humility, candor
Communication skills are based on personal decisions:
1. Be honest and kind with your words: Make it easy for others to be wrong, as well as yourself.
2. Decrease presumptuous expectations: Make sure people are fully aware of your expectations.
3. Don’t take anything personally: statements/actions boomerang from the speaker/actor.
4. Do not condescend (talk down): Use non-offensive “I” statements to be honest and kind.
5. Do your best—not the best: Assure that competition is between equals.
My off-the-cuff suggestions to J were:
“I would unblock your sibs and write: ‘I love you unconditionally because you are my family. I invite you to disagree with me, but ask that you refrain from trying to change my beliefs/political stance. We can focus our dialogues on family updates, medical issues, vacations, jobs, books, movies and hobbies. That's plenty and feasible. Let’s avoid disagreements that destroy closeness.”
We chatted a bit more about temperament and that some in his family are head-logic thinkers who can handle disagreements more easily, but the others prefer heart-logic, vie for harmony and peace and plead to settle problems. Thinkers are usually cooperative in working through disagreements. I gave him some examples of other family groups struggling with the same tensions. He went home emboldened to try diplomacy. Here’s what transpired:
“I heeded your advice of unblocking my sister and brothers from contacting me and letting them know that I wasn’t going to engage in politics anymore or our current social constructs.... of which both topics caused tempers to flare. I believe blocking them, if only temporarily, sent a strong message that their rhetoric had taken me past my boundaries. That small hiatus somehow energized me to "just not engage"
Your statement regarding discomfort with a friend “I love her but have trouble enjoying her” is priceless. I’m adopting it into my preferred statements. It fits perfectly in assisting me to remain focused on God and not someone bothering me or whom I disagree with or I just don’t care for. I can just say to myself, ‘I have difficulty enjoying this person right now’. It’s brilliant. Thank you for this.” J
A Caution for Siblings: “Just because we’re siblings, doesn’t mean that we own each other giving us the right to speak harshly, hurtfully or making accusatory or demeaning statements”. Be as conciliatory and patient as possible. These situations often rear their ugly heads not only in family units but at work, school, church, clubs, neighborhoods or apartment dwellings. We all need the reminder to speak kindly and courteously.
A distraught grandfather sent an email describing tensions in his family. I have my cheery days, and my not-so-cheery ones. My faith in our great God is strong and growing. Nevertheless, I have had a rough time of it—trying/hoping to mend relationships with my four adult children, all of whom have been/continue to be sold a bunch of nonsense about what happened in the breakup of our marriage. Unfortunately, mystifyingly, my Ex has worked hard and adeptly at manipulating the narrative. She seems bent on making sure they don’t get close to me. The kids and grandkids have no idea what truly happened. I haven’t seen two grandchildren (6 and 8) in 18 months. My daughter is estranged, by equal parts choice and deception, and I don’t know how to best attempt reconciliation.
In this situation, the grandfather is a very strong thinking-by-logic person who can tolerate discord with adults but not being permitted to see his grandchildren is abject punishment from several feeling people who bonded together to oust him. The only thing he can do is send birthday cards to the grandchildren and focus on his good relationships with his other children and grandchildren without attempting to vilify his Ex. Unless someone actually asks him for information on their marital difficulties, he could very tactfully give highlights of their differences being very careful not to picture their mother negatively. Kindred-harmony empowered by courtesy and candor would be his goal. Hopefully, by being patient and less vocal as he was in earlier days, the drift will be healed gently in some small ways in years to come.
C’s story: When my younger sister was giving me grief, I invited her into my bedroom and locked the door. “Why did you lock the door,” she asked. “Because we’re going to have a talk about Mom and Dad’s problems and you and me. Mom favors you and dad favors me. I don’t try to get you in trouble with Dad and I am tired of you telling Mom things about me that you don’t like and then Mom scolds me. That’s got to stop! Do you understand?”
The older sister took the upper hand and what she said and how she said it eased the problem. Many years have passed and the sisters are very close, chatting by phone daily. Siblings are often the best ones to solve problems spontaneously by using homespun solutions which are sometimes fairly strict.
I’m bothered by my only niece’s grandmother who as soon as she enters their home where I’ve been invited as well, scoops up her granddaughter, even from my arms, and takes her to another room where she monopolizes the toddler. It’s as though I’m either not present or am an intruder. Aunt J:
In this example, were the soft-hearted aunt or the sensitive daughter in law to attempt to reason with the head logic, assertive and tactless grandmother, new family tensions would likely occur. The easiest diplomacy would be by arranging an earlier private time for the aunt to be with her niece.
The first example of strained relationship is recorded in the book of Genesis when Cain killed Abel. Jealousy, envy and disagreements are the common denominators of contention. The scriptures overflow with guidelines on getting along. Jesus exemplified applying unconditional love which is “I love you no matter what you say or do” attitude.
The Apostle Paul advised: … Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph. 4:3. (NIV) Therefore…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification… (uplifted, improved, betterment) Rom 14:19 (NIV). He also used the expression ’unity of the spirit’.