Good news–I’ve been making great headway on my new book and am very close to having a complete draft to send out for critique and editing.
The book deals with productive discussions of sensitive issues such as sexual harassment, implicit bias, COVID19 vaccines, or even your neighbor’s naughty dog. If you have read my other books, Bridges to Consensus and Love on the Rocks with a Twist, or even better, taken training or consultation from me, you’re ahead of the game. The skills you’ve read or heard about for resolving disagreements are the same skills I recommend for discussing touchy topics, simply applied in different contexts.
Here’s an excerpt from my draft book about how a professional counsellor/columnist advised a reader to deal with a sensitive family issue using a similar approach:
Real Life Advice from an Expert
Hara Estroff Marano writes a regular advice column in Psychology today. In the May 2021 issue, she addressed a question from a woman whose step sister, living with and caring for their parents, is a hoarder. Concerned that the clutter might endanger the parents’ safety, the woman had tried confronting her sister several times, without success.
Estroff Marano suggested a diametrically opposite approach: To diffuse the resistance created by previous confrontations, she should begin by engaging her sister in ordinary conversations about anything except the hoarding. After regaining her sister’s trust, she could try things like asking her sister to take pictures of the cluttered areas. “Likely, the pictures will not look like the home she visualizes in her head…. At some point the topic is likely to arise organically. You can then expose your sister to the expertise that currently exists…. There’s no guarantee, but it’s a far wiser approach than confrontation.”
In essence, Estroff Marano tells her reader how to practice what I call The Silver Rule: avoid or minimize directly indicating that another person is wrong, as by direct confrontation, arguing, or even non-verbal wrong-making like sighing or rolling your eyes.
Think back to your experiences when direct confrontation backfired, only making matters worse. What can you learn from those experiences? Rewind those tapes and think about other ways you might have dealt with the person without overtly contradicting them. It’s never too late to learn from something that happened in the past. Sometimes, it’s not even too late to revisit the matter with that person. Plan some ways you might do that.
And if you get stuck, contact me. That’s what I’m here for.