Part II – The Solution For (our Honeymoon &) Your Family!(Continued from Part I)
In the face of multiple, competing and divergent family interests, did you identify anyone in your family (or yourself) as ever behaving like a Martyr, Bully or Pleaser?
Is there another way?
If there were another way, what would it look like?
Is it possible for very different people, with different ages and interests, to figure out what to do together in a way that no one has to compromise, bully or cajole so much that people feel lost, bossed or herded?
Indeed, is there a way that the planning can be part of the fun whilst building intimacy and connection?
Yes there is ~ meet
Style #4 The Mediator.
Looks like: “OK, we’ve got six people and nine great ideas between us. Let’s decide right now that we’ll make it a great day no matter what we end up doing. I’ve got an idea that might help – are you guys up for hearing it? How be if we each share our best idea and why it’s important to us? Let’s really listen to each other because what we can’t do today we could perhaps do another day. It’s important that everyone speaks up because it’s good to know what we each enjoy. We’ll hear one another out and see if one or two ideas seem best for this group on this day. If most of us can agree on what to do, let’s commit to doing those other ideas this year so over time we’ll all get to influence the group and feel good about our shared decision.”
Pro – Everyone has a chance to check in with themselves to see what sounds fun and why, and to put it out there. Everyone also gets the chance to listen to the others so you get to know one another more fully. The process of talking and choosing can be great fun – loads of improbable ideas can be tossed out and laughed over. Even “the losers” (those whose ideas are not decided upon for this day) know they are not long term losers because their ideas have been heard and are now on the agenda for another day.
Con – This approach takes time. It can get messy in the middle with pre-schoolers thinking of nutty things and teenagers saying “whatever” until you gently invite them to be more specific. It assumes a level of kindness amongst group members. It requires the group to value the process as well as the outcome.
Upshot – No matter which idea is chosen, everybody wins in 3 ways:
- You get to know yourself better (by checking in with what you feel and want)
- You get to know those around you better since you hear what they feel and want.
- You get to practice connecting to one another, which minimizes the chances you’ll become enemies or strangers over time.
If you are interested in being The Mediator next time your family has a group decision to make, here’s a process you may find helpful:
Family Mediation in 5 Easy Steps
1. SET THE INTENTION.
If you see a situation that could easily turn to custard – such as a group of quite different folks all trying to agree to a plan – take charge and immediately raise the bar by stating an exciting or compelling intention. In the example above the Mediator said
“Let’s decide right now that we’ll make it a great day no matter what we end up doing.”
Another way is to pose this question: “
“Is it possible for us as very different people, with different ages and interests, to figure out what to do together in such a way that no one has feel lost, bossed or herded?”
2. PROPOSE A WIN-WIN SOLUTION.
Since it will immediately be obvious to everyone that not all the ideas on the table can be undertaken, there’s the possibility of some tension – particularly if you’ve got a handful of competitive sorts who are tuned in to the idea of winners & losers. By letting your group know you’ve got an idea that has benefits for everyone no matter whose ideas are acted upon, you might get some buy-in for your plan.
“I’ve got an idea that means we all win. Even if your idea isn’t the one we all agree to today, it will be put on the agenda for another time. So, are you up for hearing it? “
3. EVERYBODY CONTRIBUTES BY SPEAKING & LISTENING
By inviting everyone to weigh in with what is genuinely true for them – even your surliest teen and Gran who always puts everyone else first – you will accomplish two very important tasks. First of all everyone gets to take responsibility for how his or her day goes. If everyone puts an idea forward it has a chance of being chosen – if not today then soon. If someone has no ideas at all, can he or she agree to see if someone else’s idea sounds good and support it as their own? It is always easier to knock an idea than generate one – right? Same with choosing what to do. This practice of inviting everyone to contribute avoids the issue of people defaulting to one person’s idea and then grumbling.
“How be if we each share our best idea and why it’s important to us? Let’s really listen to each other because what we can’t do today we could perhaps do another day. For me, I’d love to split the day between a leisurely brunch since I’m famished, and then I think a zoo trip would be wonderful. Who’s next?”
4. WORK THROUGH GRIDLOCK
After everyone has had suggested an activity and why it might be fun for him or her, each person in the group will have a better sense for what might be best. Maybe little sister reminds the group she wanted to fly a kite last time you did this and it wasn’t possible because there was no wind, so on this blustery day her idea might be a good one. Whilst maybe your idea of a leisurely brunch wasn’t well received since the kids had all been snacking all morning and were full of energy. See if you can get a few people to sum up what seems to be the fairest and best-for-all ideas and propose them. You need to name the ideas that are to be shelved for now (like little sisters kite flying was last time). If there are still two quite different activities being championed by two or more people, go a bit deeper. Ask each person things like;
“So Mandy, you’re keen for us to cycle over to Kelly Tarltons and then on to St. Helliers for ice-creams because Kelly Tarltons has that special on and you adore ice creams on hot days. OK. And for you Danny heading over to hike in the Hanuas with a picnic lunch is more fun because you hate cycling on busy roads and want some shade? Can anyone think of a way to shift these two ideas a bit so everyone is happy?”
Opening it up for everyone to weigh-in once more might elicit some good compromises everyone can live with – like a shady Hanua (Danny’s wish) hike with ice-creams (Mandy’s wish) and a commitment to schedule Kelly Tarltons soon.
People dig their heels in and get stuck when their ideas and reasons remain unheard. Try it – really listen to what people want, acknowledge it, commit to meeting that request as best you can in the near future – and see if this person is willing to become more flexible.
5. THIS WILL HAVE BEEN FUN FOR ME TODAY IF…
This is key to bumping into happiness on all sorts of occasions. If – at the beginning of an undertaking – you identify what will make you particularly happy about this project as you undertake it, and then if you look back on this project and remember how you achieved what you said you wanted to achieve – you will feel happy about it. No matter who suggested the activity your group ends up committing to, each member of the group can think about one thing they are especially excited about. So – Mandy who wanted the bike trip and ice-creams can anticipate the ice-creams on route to the hike. Gran, who does not hike much and who plans to take a folding chair and bird watching book so she can be in the hills but not hiking, might say “I hope to see those cute Fan Tails – I’ve heard they love this area.” And usually sullen teen might say “I’ll take the stop watch – save me doing track tomorrow if I run some of this trail.” You get the idea, right? You are inviting everyone to buy-in to the day with their own unique set of reasons.
Oh yes – the honeymoon? It’s hard to keep these blog posts to around 1000 words (my goal!) I’m at over 1400 already.
I’ll write a fuller blog about the honeymoon if anyone is interested. But, in brief, Mark and I planned an open-ended adventure through Europe and the Middle east. We’d saved about $5,000 USD (good money in 1982); sold the Subaru after driving from Seattle (top left on the map of the United States) to Florida (bottom right on the map), for another $1200 and flew off to London where we cajoled our 1974 VW camper into a road-worthy first home. We allowed the adventure to take shape and when, after about 5 or 6 months we found ourselves voicing different priorities for the summer of 1983 – we “invented” this process, with a twist.
1. We sent an intention to create a marriage in which our individual passions could still flourish. We had stated in our vows that we wanted our union to make us bigger people, not smaller ones.
2. We committed to finding a win-win solution.
3. We talked about what we each wanted and why.
4. In the face of apparent gridlock we discovered the idea of taking a month apart at the same time – Mark for his German adventure and me for my French one.
5. We identified goals we each wanted to achieve and tell one another about upon our reunion – at a suitably romantic little Inn in Annecy.
It worked. We both had quite delightful adventures.
And the rest, as they say, is history!