16 October 2019, by Nicholas Quek

How to argue well with your family

So this post is really an extension of another post I made before, ‘How not to murder your family members at dinner’. This post will specifically be focused on the second point, listening…

I come from quite a feisty family. We are all loud people, though loud over different things. My dad get really excited about geopolitics and the stock market, my mom about the family schedule and travel planning, my sister about Taylor Swift and Mario Kart Mobile, my brother about fine dining and Youtube vloggers, and me about the best way to make a smashed burger.

Family dinners are often a noisy affair. There are usually several conversations happening at once, though every so often we will centralise the discussion. We are quick to say what we what, jumping into conversations and expressing our opinions whenever we please.

For a long time, arguments proceeded the same way family dinners did. We would shout over each other, call each other names etc. Arguments would spawn sub-arguments and get other members of the family involved. Sometimes they would travel throughout the house, where an argument that began in the living room would gather the attention of family members’ in other rooms, and the argument would begin to shift geographically toward that area. Other times it would stay in the living room, where every family member would join in and express their grievances towards one another.

I’ve begun to notice a change in the way my family argues…

I first noticed it with my dad. During an argument with my mom, he would allow her to speak her mind and he wouldn’t reply. Later in the day, he would approach her separately and respond to her. Sometimes the argument would continue, but often results in an amicable end to the conflict.

In some sense, there’s nothing new about what my dad is doing. Being silent, letting someone speak their mind before responding – it’s the basics of conflict management. But it’s so hard! Especially in a family as talkative and expressive as mine, I always feel a constant pressure to say what I want to say before someone else jumps in. But my dad isn’t like that (at least most of the time hahaha!).

Mum and Dad

We’ve all learnt this important lesson from my dad, by being slower to express ourselves and being quicker to listen to each other. We’re all struggling together, and it’s pretty hilarious seeing each of us grimace as we resist the temptation to respond immediately. My mother would complain about our lack of discipline in household chores while my siblings and I would try not to laugh at her. My father will labour over his opinions about geopolitics while the rest of us try to talk about something more casual.

I could go on for awhile detailing the different conversations my family has had over the years, and how we’ve all grown to be more patient with one another. But all of this started with my dad, and his willingness to just sit, listen, and take his time in responding. Definitely something I’m glad to have learnt from him.

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