Q: I'm experiencing an awkward situation with an extended family member. This person recently disagreed with something I posted on Facebook and commented harshly. I admit I responded poorly in the moment. This led to other negative posts, a few blunt emails and even a couple of snarky texts. A minor difference has escalated into real tension. What do I do now?
Jim: Digital connections -- email, texting and popular social media platforms -- have revolutionized communication with good reason: They're fast and convenient. When a relationship is healthy, they're a great way to stay in touch.
But, as author and psychologist Dr. John Townsend warns, if you're engaged in conflict with someone, addressing problems through electronic means is the worst thing you can do. That's because confrontational comments almost always seem worse when you read them. No matter how carefully we word our thoughts, it's far too easy for the reader to feel attacked or judged. In fact, the potential for misunderstanding is so great that Dr. Townsend recommends people never use digital means to confront anyone.
Instead, talk face-to-face if at all possible -- or by phone if necessary. Granted, addressing disagreements in person can make for an uncomfortable conversation. But it's the best way to ensure that the subtleties of communication carry through and help make reconciliation possible, rather than derail it.
Make it your priority to affirm the relationship, even if you need to "agree to disagree" about some things. There's some great advice on interacting with others that dates back 2,000 years: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
Humbly admitting any fault you might have had in escalating the situation could be the first step in reaching a resolution. If our staff counselors can be of help, feel free to call them at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: My 7-year-old daughter is smart, and many things come easy for her. But when things don't go her way, or she hits any sort of obstacle, she just gives up. How can I teach her to persevere?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Perseverance is certainly important to a thriving and successful life. As a family therapist, I've noticed many kids haven't learned how to respond to normal childhood emotions like boredom, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, failure or loss. As parents, we get to teach our kids how to manage these emotions effectively. We don't have to get caught up in shielding them from these.
Persevering through hardships is a learned process -- one that is most effectively learned at an early age, but which can be absorbed by older kids as well. Interestingly, some kids will naturally thrive when facing a challenge, no matter the outcome. Others interpret loss as a complete failure. The key to perseverance is looking through a new lens. This is true for all areas of life: academics, relationships, job performance, etc.
There are three mindsets your child needs to develop persistence and successfully face adversity.
First, when (not if) she fails, acknowledge the resulting raw feelings but quickly move her toward constructive thoughts. It's great to recognize your child's talents, but also let her know talent requires refinement -- the process of growth and improvement. Winners first learn how to lose well so that they don't panic when things go unexpectedly wrong. Like a rubber ball, teach them how to bounce back.
Second, help your child become a creative problem-solver. A common phrase in my home is this: "Everything has a solution, you just have to find it."
Finally, guide your child toward humility. None of us are perfect -- but imperfection keeps us interdependent on others and allows us to experience the excitement of growing and improving.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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