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home : features : valley living April 30, 2016

12/18/2007 2:30:00 PM
Valley Living Section
Christmas communication: One woman's dilemma

Marta Adelsman

I'm so excited! This week our three grown sons arrive from various parts of the world to spend Christmas with my husband and me.

One aspect of their visit presents a dilemma for me. All three of my sons thrive on staying up late. So does my husband, for that matter. I am the only morning person in the family. Even when I go to bed late, I still awaken early.

In past get-togethers, the men would stay up late playing card games, often into the wee hours of the morning. I would awaken the next morning to find them all sleeping soundly. They would stay asleep for hours before stirring, and I would feel disappointed.

My dilemma: either I meet my need to be with my family, staying up late and missing my sleep, or I surrender to sleep and miss seeing my family as much as I would like.

To resolve this, I've decided to practice a communication tool called "being heard." Rather than play victim, hoping that someone notices my unfulfilled need, I choose to take responsibility to state my needs and desires in a clean and clear way.

So I will talk with my sons. In this process, it's important that I do not to judge their night-time patterns. My morning-person habits are not necessarily better; they're just different from theirs. So I will talk about my own feelings - my sadness and dissatisfaction -- when my need to spend time with them isn't met. In this way, I avoid accusing them and arousing defensiveness.

Then I will make my request: "Would you be willing to spend more time awake during the day so I have more time with you?" If they say yes, they get to choose how they will make that happen. It's not my job to tell them. (It has never worked for me to tell my sons what to do!)

If they are not willing, then I have choices. I can take it personally and sulk, which only adds to my suffering. Or I can look for some middle ground, or I can plan a nap sometime during the day. In any case, I am responsible for meeting my needs.

It's important to observe the difference between a request and a demand. A demand expects only one answer - my way. A true request allows my sons to answer however they wish. It honors their needs and desires, as well as my own.

It's also important to avoid disguising a demand as a request. I can use the right "request" words, yet still maintain demand-energy behind the words. Believe me, they will sense it!

Many of you will have increased contact with your own adult children and/or other loved ones during the Christmas holidays. I encourage you to become clear about what will make the time delightful for you. Then make requests where necessary.

Because of this tool - being heard - I expect this Christmas with my family to be the best ever!

To contact Dr. Marta, call (928) 451-9482.

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