Facts for Living: What to take, what to change? – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Facts for Living: What to take, what to change?

By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension District Agent

I’ve recently completed a series of sessions on healthy relationships with teens in the Frontier Extension District. A couple of the lessons that I think are really important are on communication challenges and conflict management skills.

080714-facts-for-living1The teens have a workbook that helps them apply the concepts we talk about to their own lives. One workbook activity I find particularly helpful is, Communication Patterns: What to Take, What to Change. The teens reflect upon the communication patterns in their families of origin and identify the patterns they want to work toward for their own lives. You see, without this kind of conscious examination, we all have a tendency to repeat the same patterns we grew up with. Or, we tend to react in totally opposite ways, which can be just as problematic. However, we can develop skills to communicate effectively and to manage conflict in healthy ways.

Negative communication patterns and interaction are what starts to erode relationships. Danger signs include put-downs or invalidation, withdrawal or avoidance, negative interpretation and escalation.

Put-downs or invalidations happen when feelings, actions, efforts, or thoughts are discounted, disrespected, or devalued. Some examples include: “You can’t do anything right,” “You stupid jerk,” “It’s no big deal, you shouldn’t be so upset about that.”

Withdrawal or avoidance is when someone like a partner, friend, family member, or someone you work with avoids talking about important things or withdraws from the conversation once important issues come up. It’s very frustrating, and withdrawing or avoiding certain topics or conversations usually means the mounting frustration leads to an angry outburst. However, withdrawal is wise and advised when the conversation starts getting heated or escalating.

Escalation is when a routine conversation erupts into destructive or out-of-control arguments. Negative comments spew out with hurtful and nasty words. People often regret the words they have said in anger, but unfortunately, the other person is likely to remember them. People who are more successful in their relationships are often able to stop themselves before it goes too far. They learn how to stop and take a time out.

Negative interpretation is when someone takes what you say and turns it around. Have you ever felt like another person was taking what you said and turned it into something negative? Have you ever had the sense that a person is only seeing and looking for the negatives and does not see any of the positives that you do? The danger with negative interpretations is that they can take over your view of another person. Soon, you don’t even see half of the positive things the other person does or says.

Everyone engages in the communication danger signs from time to time, but too much can destroy relationships. The good news is that you can learn skills to reduce these negative patterns and to stop or exit out of them when they occur.

McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development agent. For more information, she can be contacted at Frontier Extension’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu.

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