This quote from Stephen R. Covey may describe your family: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with

the intent to reply.” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change)

For head-to-head family conflict, here is a mediation strategy from “Mom Always Liked You Best”:

The goal:

  • Try to understand what your parent, sibling, spouse or other family member is trying to tell you, from their perspective.
  • As a Mediator, I refer to this as ‘active listening,’ because you are really listening, not thinking about what you want to say next.

The process:

  • All available family members who are involved in the dispute or disagreement gather in a quiet room, with ample time so the process is not rushed.
  • Each participant – including the senior if this is an elder care issue that involves them – is given an equal opportunity to speak without being interrupted.
  • After one family member speaks, each of the others repeat, in a positive way, what they think they heard that person say. For example, “I heard you say that you are unhappy with my decisions about bill paying and that I have not given you enough information for you to stay informed about this. Did I hear you correctly or did I understand you correctly?”
  • If the person replies that you did not hear them correctly, the next step is for each family member to gather more information by asking the speaker ‘nonthreatening’ and ‘I’m not accusing you’ questions. As a Mediator, I use this technique to help mediation participants understand what it feels like to ‘be in the other person’s shoes.’
  • When everyone in the room has enough information, take a break so each participant can think about how what they learned affects their own position or what they thought was happening prior to this discussion and the disagreement.
  • This is the point where I, as a Mediator, would facilitate by asking each family member to take a step back from their ‘stand’ or position on the dispute or disagreement.

If your family requires a neutral Mediator, please contact my office to learn how my BPA Mediation services can help, and visit

Next blog: More self-help techniques for managing elder care and special needs disputes.

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