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The Message
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September 26, 1997     The Message
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September 26, 1997
 

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10 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana September 26, 199.7 i,ii Action steps that work fc)r families By JUDY ESWAY Catholic News Service In the early years of our marriage my husband and I argued a lot. My biggest frustration was when he'd simply walk out of the room just because I told him to leave me alone. What was wrong with the man? Anyone in his right mind knows that "Leave me alone" means "Give me a hug, tell me you love me, tell me everything will be all right." I was shocked to discover that many people (of a certain gender) can't read between the lines. And my husband was equally shocked that anyone would expect that he could. So, after visiting a counselor, I learned to say what I mean (which still seems silly to me), and he learned to rephrase it and say it back just to be safe. Simple too!. Once we learned a few basic tech- niques for communicating better, we were amazed, really, that they were so simple. Anyone can master them. It just takes a little practice. But before I learned the "art" (it's real- ly a skiU of communication), here are some things I used to do. I don't recom- mend them. They don't work: 1. Bringing up an "issue" on Super Bowl Sunday (oh, but it's so tempting). 2. Making statements like, "You always exaggerate -- always, always!" 3. Saying, "If you don't change, I'm leaving you," 4. Yelling at your teen-ager: "You took my car where? You're grounded for 10 years!" Careful now. Do you really want to feed that kid when you're on social security? 5. Bringing up the past: "I remember what you said to me in 1967. Did you think I'd forget?" Now here are some things that do work in a family's favor and that foster a better atmosphere for communication at home. 1. Keep a sense of humor. A knock- down, drag-out fight today could end up "In the early years of our marriage my husband and I argued a lot," reveals Judy Esway. "Once we learned a few basic tech- niques for communicating better, we were amazed." CNS photo by Los Fetchko being a new family story told around the kitchen table for years to come. It hap- pened to us recently. My husband was going to accompany me to a speaking engagement. He's getting more involved in my work so that when he retires he can be my manager. I was ready -- calm, prepared, prayed- up, when he started: "What time do you speak?... You don't know exactly? You're kidding! What's the agenda? It's not your meeting! You should know these things!" I was trying to stay cool u I had only done this for years without him m but there I was, right before I was about to give a talk on spirituality, and I could hear my voice rising, getting louder and louder. And I did the only thing I could do. I fired him! It was only a few days later that we had a group of people in stitches recounting the story. "Yes," Rick said, "and after she fired me she asks, 'Would you mind just taking my books out to the car for me? And maybe you could drive me out there and get me set up."' So do you see what humor can do? When we were driving in stony silence that day, we both knew that tomorrow this was going to make a great story. 2. Be flexible. Perhaps the other person (or you) is not yet capable of making a major change. Have second and third options. 3. Work on your own emotjonal and spiritual growth. We've heard it a thou- sand times: "You can't change anybody. The only person you can change" u All together now  "'is yourself." 4. Let the other person know you will not walk away. You are committed to working it out. People can thrive when the fear of abandonment is taken 5. Respect the other's opinions feelings, even when they are from yours. When we gasp or raise eyebrows, we force others to tell us they think we want to hear. Learning about personality types can help family members learn to municate better. For example, extroverts think and introverts usually don't say thing until they have something to This can be extremely frustrating both. But when we realize our wired differently, then we can be tolerant. Yet even when we have new tion and have grown, we may sffil sionally fall back to "earlier," ways of behaving, because we come the relationship with separate See ACTION How Jesus conversed with people By Father John J. Castelot Catholic News Service Jesus didn't have to carry on a long conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. After all, when he had asked for a drink from the well, she cut him off with a rude reminder of their irreconcil- able differences: He was a Jew, she a Samaritan; he was "a man, she a woman. End of conversa- tion. (John 4:9) However, Jesus did not think their dif- ferences were irreconcilable at all. Ignor- ing her hostility, he kept the conversa- tion going. The fact that they were different didn't mean they couldn't talk. Rather, it was all the more reason they should. Calm conversation could bridge the chasm that separated them. He acknowl- edged her as a person with a right to be heard, and he listened. By the time the conversation was over, her hostility had changed to enthusiasm. She couldn't wait to get home and tell the folks all about him. The fourth Gospel is made up of a whole series of dialogues: with Nicode- mus, with the woman at the well, with Jewish leaders, the blind man, the disci- ples, Pilate. In the other Gospels Jesus taught by telling stories, parables, all invitations to conversation. A parable was a common way of teaching and an effective one. It was con- structed to engage the listener. The para- ble's element of surprise got the listener wondering and talking. A parable doesn't just go in one ear and out the other without leaving any lasting impression. A parable makes a person think, ask questions and person- alizes a teaching. When an expert in the law challenged Jesus to define what he meant by "neigh- bor," Jesus didn't give a definition. He told a story involving two respected reli- gious leaders and a Samaritan, Who was the "star." This was shocking! It made the ques- tioner think. And at the end of the story Jesus didn't just tell the man which of the three was a real neighbor. He asked for his listener's opinion, drew him into the teaching process, invited him to give the answer (Luke 10:29-37). Jesus respected people as persons with an inherent dignity. And he listened. Parents often complain that their chil- dren don't listen to them. They might well ask how often they listen to their children, really listen. Simply talking at children can turn them off. They want to know why they should or shouldn't do something. They want to participate in a conversation and be heard -- even in cases where parents won't be able , in the end, to endorse the child's view or request. Patient conversation at home demanding, but it pays rich and is eminently worth the time effort involved. Father Castelot is a Scripture author, teacher and lecturer.