How To Break The Shell Of Silence ?
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How to Break the Shell Of Silence ?

Dear Dr. Sadaqat Ali,

I have a twenty-one years old son. He has drifted in and out of college classes and lacks direction and ambition. He spends most of his time hanging out with friends.

We are two completely different personalities, I am very organized, serious, and high-strung. He is very laid-back, social, and unconcerned with his future. My goal is to see him be self-supporting. Although after every conversation he says he wants to be a successful businessman and live on his own, I do not see him making any efforts towards that goal. Sometimes I look at the possibility of holding a breakthrough negotiation, but now I wonder if it’s really worth it? I know that he isn’t likely to change and that he may become upset with me, so is it appropriate to remain silent.

Please help me in helping him to move forward with his life.

Thank you,

Perplexed mother

Dear Perplexed mother,

Silence may be an appropriate course of action when stakes are not high, emotions are not strong or there are no conflicting opinions. But this isn’t your current situation. We talk to our friends and families, ask for things we need and surf the Internet to find out what is happening around us. But when it comes to crucial matters we rarely seek productive guidance. Communication is something most of us take for granted. The other problem is the illusion that we have done already our best. Silence is a complicated choice and one should be careful about it. When you find that your motive is unhealthy, negative emotions are in control, you lack respect for someone or you don’t feel safe, it may be okay to move to silence temporarily. However, be careful not to use this “break” as an excuse to sweep the problem under the rug. Taking an hour to deliberate, connecting to a healthy motive, and finding a way to respect the other person can make a big difference. Starting a dialogue with the same person in safe place is essential. And sooner, the better.

You have already spoken with your son about general goals, direction, and aspirations. That half of the breakthrough negotiation has gone fine. You have concluded that he has some vague ideas about what he wants. But they sound more like fantasies than plans. You also need to hold the other half of the negotiation. You’ve shown a sincere interest in his life. But actually you have asserted your own interests. Such as, you want him to make progress. You want him to be self reliant. And—if you’re like many parents—you’d like him to move on to the next phase of his life. But setting goals with mutual agreement and holding him accountable on daily basis is your next move. This is a very delicate step and needs well learned communication skills.

Usually parents fail in their negotiations with their children, not because they don’t have a right to intervene in their life, actually they lack the skills to do so. On the other hand, therapists have skills but they sometimes fail because they don’t have the right to speak with an unwilling teenager. But when parents and therapists join hands miraculous results follow with indirect counseling in which the therapist works on the client and in turn the client works on the identified “patient”. When I see couples or families in therapy, improving communication leads to a breakthrough. Most people are convinced that they are good communicator already. I will suggest you to come out of this trap and start leaning the assertiveness. Being assertive means knowing the fine line. It means having a strong sense of yourself with full attention to mindfulness. Acknowledge that you deserve to get what you want. It helps to stand up for yourself even in the most difficult situations. But you should be aware about the boundaries between human beings, they way you see them amongst the neighboring countries.

Assertiveness can be learned and developed; however, it won't happen overnight. You will slowly become more confident in expressing your needs and wants. To learn basic assertiveness skills find the links of videos on assertiveness by Dr. Sadaqat Ali at the end of this article. These skills will help you to Assert about what you’d like to see happening. Let your son know that as long as he is making measured progress toward what you mutually agree on, you are happy to play a supportive role (i.e., you will financially support him). Make clear statements. Agree on who will do what and by when. Also agree on specific times when you will talk again to let him report his progress. Whenever you talk, have a straight talk with your son. No hint throwing or convoluted sentences.

The other most important thing in this regard is thatyou need to follow up on the commitments. Hold him accountable. Do it lovingly. Do it politely. Do it patiently. But do it firmly. As you are keenly aware, you’re doing this as much for him as for you. Nothing is more harmful than parentswho are unwilling to let their children experience the natural consequences of their own actions. And endlessly subsidizing a son who is not self-reliant is a common trap parents fall into.

We’ve all heard that 93% of communication is nonverbal. While I’m not sure how one actually measures such a squishy thing, there is indeed truth in the notion that our words alone are not our only way of sending messages. Our facial expressions, volume, tone of voice, and body language combine to send messages as well.

If your son tells you that you sound negative and arrogant, it’s possibly because your thoughts are negative and egotistic. You might actually be thinking bad things about him and you can’t hide your feelings well. Some people are actually quite adept at hiding these negative thoughts, putting on an upbeat face, and moving on without coming across as harsh or degrading. But most of us are not all that good at masking the emotions our stories create. We can only solve this problem by changing what we think about others.

To change your perception about the issue you should learn tomanage stress in the heat of the moment. Stress compromises our ability to communicate. When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. Furthermore, emotions are contagious. Your stress is very likely to trigger the same in others, making a bad situation worse.Now you don’t have to think about going into the silence to avoid heated conversations. I hope that by following these suggestions you can hold your crucial confrontations effectively. And, please forgive me for all the advice that it is focused at you and not at your son; as you were courageous enough to contact me and not your son. So, it would have been futile to address him. But, I hope to influence him through you.


Street Talk

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