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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

Family Meeting
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TAGS: Relationships, Siblings, Communication, Compromise, Differences, Problem Solving, Teenagers

Family Meetings – Creating a Safe Environment Where Everyone has a Voice

Yvonne Nelson-Reid, B.Ed., M.A.
YVONNE NELSON-REID, B.Ed., M.A., is a mother of 5, writer, teacher, depth psychologist, and career coach. As a certified MBTI and MMTIC professional, she uses typology as a tool for helping others understand differences and communicate more effectively.
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The other week, I could see tensions rising among the members of my family. There are many of us, 7 to be exact, and when dynamics are out of sorts, it can be felt in a huge way!

Family meetings are one way we try to work through frustrations and misunderstandings. Sadly, busy schedules, and everyone going in different directions, which is becoming more commonplace the older the kids get, have made it nearly impossible to find the time to talk.

We all know the importance in getting together and how it helps to keep us in balance. Having reached the critical level, a mandatory family meeting was set. We typically go around in a circle taking turns sharing our concerns, however this time, emotions were heated and those who are more vocal took center stage.

With my own emotions activated, I found it hard to keep order and structure, and more importantly, a safe and respectful environment, which is typically my role in the process. It is natural for me to pick up on the feelings of others and vital for my own sense of harmony to make sure each person is heard and respected. Keeping the peace became more challenging as this meeting took on a life of its own.


I knew deep down that there was more going on here than just a dinner squabble, and if we were ever going to get to the real issue, we needed to go deeper. Deep breath everyone! Not everyone can share their thoughts and feelings in a quick manner because some people need time to process before discussing their concerns. In a heated situation, those who are quick to react tend to get the floor, which isn't always good, as they may blurt out comments that don't necessarily reflect their true thoughts and feelings, or may represent them now but not later.

As the conversation turned to deeper hurts and a reveal of miscommunication and misunderstandings, tensions calmed. At least that is how it appeared on the outside, but what was really happening was that the vocal kids were feeling better having had the chance to express their issues, whereas two of the quieter family members who felt unheard had already left. The one who remained couldn't contain herself any longer, and firmly yet passionately, stated that no one ever listens to her, that she never has the chance to state what is on her mind or if she tries is often cut off.

Wow... this is our child who is accommodating, seeks harmony, and typically the peace keeper of the family, and sadly, due to this is she often overlooked because she won't speak out for fear of hurting someone. We listened now with our full attention and were enlightened by her wisdom and honesty.

In past groups that I have either led or participated in we often used a "talking stick" that would be passed around the circle. Speaking only when you have the stick in hand is the premise of this process.

Two major realizations came to me upon reflection of this particular family meeting, first, we need to meet more often before tensions reach maximum, and second, in order to meet the needs of all family members, we need to appreciate the differences in how we take in and process information. In other words, allow time for those who need to "reflect before they speak," and allow those who "speak before they reflect" to process as they speak.

Yes, it does seem that a family talking stick might just be the tool needed to help everyone feel listened to, and hopefully heard, throughout the process. I'm happy to say, we got to the real issue, shed tears, hugged it out, and now feel peace and balance in the house.

That is, until the next time!



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