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Your Foot’s in My Space!

Your Foot’s in My Space!

“Your foot’s in my space!”

“Your booster seat keeps leaning on me!”

“Where is that travel pillow I need to fall asleep?”

Words of frustration echoed from the backseat of our five-passenger rental car. We’d barely begun our 7500-mile, cross-country road trip. Already, the troops were getting restless.

My own anger began to build as I listened to their complaints. How would we survive the four-week adventure which yesterday we’d been so excited to begin? Would our trip of a lifetime turn into the worst vacation ever?

My husband’s words cut through the tension. “We need to talk about our frustrations if we’re going to enjoy this trip. When one of us starts feeling upset, let’s discuss it.”

So, we did. My husband invited each child to express what was making him or her angry. He phrased probing questions to help them verbalize their emotions. He repeated back what he thought they were saying, asking if they felt understood. Then he listened as they clarified what they’d meant to express.

Before we knew it, the tension was gone. Like a defused bomb, contentment settled in where irritation had mounted just minutes before. As we felt understood (and better understood one another), we were free to enjoy our trip once again.

This scenario replayed itself many times over the course of our 28 days on the road. When we finally returned home with all our new memories, we were closer as a family than when we’d started our adventure.

Talking through conflict doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m learning it’s essential to maintaining healthy relationships. Here are some of our family ground rules for ensuring that these conversations are constructive:

  • Show respect

As each person shares his or her feelings, they’re expected to show respect to everyone involved – even when confronting wrong behavior. No name calling or personal put-downs are allowed. We value each person, as well as their feelings and concerns.

  • Be honest

Stuffing emotions only delays resolution or leads to bigger problems in the future. With this truth in mind, each person is free to share how they’re feeling and why – even if their feelings seem illogical or stem from a misunderstanding.

  • Try to understand

While it’s important to be understood, it’s also crucial to recognize the other person’s feelings and perspective. Each member of the conversation should listen without being defensive, remembering that different perspectives aren’t necessarily wrong. Everyone involved should seek understanding before trying to fix the problems at hand.

  • Keep the purpose in mind

Reconciliation is the goal of these conversations. They have the potential to strengthen struggling friendships and deepen the love between each person. Even if those involved can’t see things from the same point of view, they can value one another and grow through the process.

As our family learned on a road trip around America, talking through conflict can have lifegiving results. Let’s do the hard work of getting along* and watch God bring beauty out of difficult conversations.

*Check out James 3:18 in The Message Bible.

By: Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs about living from a heart at rest at Connect with her on Facebook at Dazzled By The Son and on Instagram and Twitter @DazzledByTheSon.

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