Of late we at ASM Plus have noted a number of very positive anecdotal accounts on the internet of families who have taken the opportunity of being confined at home to bond and do things together that they might not have had time for earlier this year.
However, we have also encountered the opposite. In recent weeks the Guardian newspaper has reported that the number of calls to domestic violence helplines has substantially increased with one organisation reporting a 125% increase in requests for assistance. Families and neighbours who previously had not been getting on that well may possibly find themselves in a very pressured situation. Some may find that “the little things” that annoyed prior to the lock down have become really contentious issues and others may find being apart from partners and loved ones to be very stressful. If for present purposes one takes it that the lockdown will continue for some time to come, it is likely that tensions will increase and already volatile situations could get worse.
In some instances, family members may be able to take the pragmatic approach, talk through their differences and reach some form of agreement or adjust their living arrangements to minimise the likelihood of contentious situations arising.
Even in a relatively stable domestic environment, having “the conversation” may be quite a daunting thing to initiate. What appears to be reasonable to one person may be seen as unreasonable by another. Input from family members such as parents or a dominant spouse may be resented and there is always the danger that some people will shy away from contentious issues and “give in for a quiet life”.
The following tips may assist:
- In any discussions, try to maintain a moderate, even tone and avoid any potentially negative body language
- Avoid confrontation but at the same time do not simply “agree” if you “disagree” or nod “yes” if you mean “no”
- Avoid too many interruptions
- Put the emphasis on listening and empathy
- Look for positives, not negatives
- Be prepared for the need to compromise, even if only a little
- Look for simple solutions and try not to over complicate matters
- Accept that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and focus on realistic outcomes even if they may take a little time to implement.
- Do not leave it too long before raising issues that are giving cause for concern
- Try and see things through and avoid any temptation to give up at the first hurdle
- Do not necessarily expect people to come round to your point of view and accept that you may have to “agree to disagree”.
- If there are long-term issues, consider mediation or a facilitated discussion as a way forward
If all else fails, contact Paul Sandford the ASM director. For a very modest charge he and his colleagues, Suzy Miller and David King offer family members and neighbours who find themselves in confined and difficult circumstances the opportunity to have an easy to arrange, low-cost facilitated discussion which will help to open the channels of communication.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.