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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

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TAGS: Communication, Decision Making, Differences, Problem Solving

Calling All Members to a Family Meeting!

Mollie Allen, M.Ed.
MOLLIE ALLEN, M.ED., is a certified coach, teacher and consultant working with groups and individuals. With undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Special Education and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision she worked in schools and in private practice with students of all ages and levels for 25 years.
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Recently, there's been a family dealing with change in the news - perhaps you heard -  Prince Harry and Meghan want a different sort of life. They had meetings with the Queen and others because everyone will be affected.

Like other family changes, such as a student returning home after leaving college, or a family having to move to a new community, it's not an emergency sort of situation, and there may be no need for a rapid response. It's critical in a different way; there are many things to discuss, many people will be involved, everyone will have to adjust, and the resolution won't happen overnight. Everyone needs to be heard, so a family meeting is the way to go.

Family meetings are not new and it's easy to find tips and how-to's. You'll find agendas, tips for selecting a leader, using "I messages," and suggestions on how to brainstorm. Often members are reminded to take turns while speaking. A missing component though, is how to approach the problem while keeping everyone involved and "on the same page."

If I had the opportunity to sneak something helpful into that meeting at the palace it would be the extended version of the Z model. This adds Extraversion - Introversion and Judging - Perceiving to the four cognitive functions of Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling.

To start, the royal (or not so royal) parents would spend alone time (introversion) identifying their individual observations, reactions, concerns, and suggestions. They would aim to come up with a shared broad statement alluding to the function-based discussions to come. It could go something like this:

"We have a family situation we haven't dealt with before. As we readjust, we hope we can work together to get the necessary facts as we know them (Sensing), exchange our hopes and wishes for the future (Intuition), analyze the causes and outcomes of how we got here (Thinking) and be open about what we're each concerned about most and why (Feeling)."

Next, they would meet for a kickoff session (maybe with popcorn or hot chocolate) to share their statement aloud (extraversion). Then, while everyone listens, each person would express their concerns and suggestions - not to discuss, decide or criticize - just tell. Next, even more tightly focused meetings would be arranged along with "between meeting alone time" (introversion) as part of the process.

We assume that complicated situations will take more sessions and more time to work through. Each discussion is followed by a pause (a couple of hours to a day). This allows each person to process their ideas and questions.  Judging and Perceiving also play a part. Initial decisions are labeled as "under consideration" until everyone has additional introversion time.

Once decisions are made, there's a reminder: if new information comes up, the decision is reviewed again. With these mindsets, there will be a lot of processing time and a lot of meetings! And patience will be called on - a lot!

Ideally, the Z model is used as a framework to guide the discussion and reflection sessions.
  • Sensing identifies the problem with a realistic, unsentimental eye and remembers known solutions.
  • Intuition flattens assumptions and encourages new solutions and new ways of seeing the problem.
  • Thinking fully analyzes the nonpersonal cause and effect and consequences without avoiding unpleasant, difficult topics.
  • Feeling is where you get in touch what really matters to you in the long term and what the outcomes may be for everyone involved.

It's not necessary to go in order though it is helpful to stay with one cognitive function at a time.

The whole process may seem lengthy or awkward at first and does take time to practice. But it can really pay off when crowns are askew, when a slipper is lost, when a festival gets out of control, or the family coach is off in a ditch. There's no way to assure the Z model will bring peace to the kingdom but my experience says there will be more quiet satisfaction in at least a few castles.


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