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Three Quality Questions to Upgrade "Those" Family Conversations at Christmas (or anytime)

Uncategorized Dec 21, 2018

Family is wonderful! They have history with you, are there for you and will always be a part of who you are.

That's why their stuff is so important.

You care deeply about them, and to be honest their decisions affect your life.

I don't know about you, but for me having quality conversations about tricky subjects can be really difficult. On the one hand, I want to be interested in people's lives but I don't want to be invasive. On the other hand, I want them to live their best life and not be stuck in a difficult set of circumstances that seems to be sucking the joy out of them.

The most common responses to "that" situation or person are two ends of the spectrum: avoidance or dominance. Avoidance just dances around the topic and diverts conversation to more pleasant topics. Dominance busts in unannounced and imposes its preferred action steps.

Here are some thoughts on partnering questions that can be truly caring and offer connection. They could change the trajectory of a person's future, offer hope or at the very least serve as a kind conversation.

#1 How's it going with ____________?

Wait for a time when you are alone with the person and just put "it" on the table. "How's it going with work?" or "How's it going with the dating scene?" 

If needed you can add in a disclaimer, "I'm not sure if I should bring this up but I truly care" and then add #1. It's kind of like knocking on the door instead of just busting it. 

Watch for the reaction and if there is shock you can add, "It's okay if you don't want to talk about it. I just want you to know I care and you can share whatever you want with me."

Then just let them share. And share. Love is shown best in active listening; and sadly quite uncommon.

GUARD YOURSELF from telling or commentating at this point! 

Eliminate these phrases:

  • Well, you know what I would do if I were you? 
  • That is just wrong...(about them or their situation)

Those words just stir things up.

Instead just affirm and show sympathy.

  • That must be hard.
  • I'm sorry you are going through this.

These words endear.

#2 What do you think God is saying in all of this?

God is always offering hope. He promises never to leave us. And there is always something we can learn about ourselves and who He is in every situation.

Asking what God is saying can remind someone that they are not alone.

Of course, it can feel awkward as well. Normally when people are in a season of difficulty it doesn't feel good. It feels like God is far away or absent. The common answer to this question is, "I don't know."

It's important at this juncture not to be trite.

Asking a question is better than stating a fact. 

Saying, "You know God is with you in this" can feel dismissive. Asking truly curious questions about what God may be offering can help bring the situation into perspective.

Again with the listening. The Holy Spirit is always moving in people's lives trying to align them with God's best for them. If you listen maybe they will talk it out till they can hear Him. 

It usually sounds tentative like, "I don't know, maybe I'm just supposed to be at peace with where I'm at" or "...maybe I just need to get over my fear and give it a try" or "I probably just need to _________".

A good follow up question in this part of the conversation can be a soft, curious nudge forward.

  • What would it look like to move forward in that?
  • How can you keep your peace in this season?
  • What can you do to remove the obstacle?

#3 Is there anything I can do?

Michael Bungay Stanier calls this the lazy question. In essence, the answer can clarify your role in the situation. Usually, the answer is easier than you thought; something like "Just be there for me" or "Nothing really, I just need to get through this." Those are the easy ones. Then, you just need to affirm your connection and care. 

There are two other possibilities for answers. The first is the sarcastic ask which sounds something like, "Well if you could give me a thousand dollars, or find me a boyfriend, or tell my boss what for, or...." This one is also easy. You just need to laugh and maybe add that you wish you could do that for them. 

The second possible response is the actual ask, "Well, if you could loan me some money, or talk to Mom for me, or drive me to my appointments, or..." This response should be given careful deliberation. Don't say yes too quickly unless you have already been hoping they would ask. Instead, be ready with, "I'm going to have to think about that for a bit, I'll get back to you on that." A guilty yes will get your relationship into more tricky waters as obligation is poor glue in a relationship. Sometimes a simple clear boundary needs to be made, and "I would love to but I can't do that for you at this time" might be the most healthy response. 

In any scenario, having the clear ask on the table allows for clarity in roles as the situation plays out. 

My prayer for you in this Christmas season is that you would know Peace that passes understanding in whatever you are facing and be able to receive, and offer, the Wonder-full Counselor!

Merry Christmas!

 

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