One day my daughter had one of her best friends over to play while her mom and I visited upstairs. They had only been playing for about 45 minutes when her friend came up from the basement in tears to see her mother. She and my daughter were having a hard time and neither of them felt understood by the other.
My friend tried to comfort her daughter and give her suggestions on solving the problem but her daughter said, “Mom, I tried to talk to her about it but she won’t listen to me.”
Clearly these girls did not know how to handle this situation alone so I knew that showing them how to use simple, honest communication skills would help them solve their problem together.
I gathered us all in the kitchen, girls and moms, and said, “Both of you girls are best friends and have a great relationship, right? So that means nothing is going to be worth ruining your friendship over. Even parents have misunderstandings sometimes. Even the two of us moms have had misunderstandings before. But, adults know that if they don’t feel like their relationship with someone is how they would like it to be, then they need to go talk to the person and work out their differences. Let’s see if we can work out whatever the problem is with you two right now.”
First I asked my daughter’s friend to tell her side of the story. Next I asked my daughter to relate her understanding of her friend’s side. Then it was time for them to switch places with my daughter explaining her side of the situation. When I was sure that both girls understood how the other felt, I said, “Do you think there is any way you could work out what you want to do today so that each of you gets to do something you want?”
But even though we had just been through an exercise where they seemed to understand each other’s point of view, neither girl was willing to budge. They said they were willing to compromise – but only as long as they didn’t have to do the other girl’s activity.
This surprised me very much. Although it had seemed like they had had a change of heart, they were still unwilling to truly cooperate.
I reminded my daughter that she knew the proper way to disagree with someone and asked her to make an effort at this. Once she began disagreeing in an appropriate manner, her friend followed this example. With their moms’ encouragement that being open minded about trying new things can make the activity fun, a good discussion ensued. In the end, both girls decided to take turns choosing activities and they had a wonderful day!
I could have easily taken another approach to this problem by staying out of it, letting my friend and her daughter carry the burden and its frustration.
Or I could have just taken my daughter’s side, arguing her points and justifying her story while believing that my daughter’s friend was at fault. This would have soured the whole day and hurt the relationship between the daughters as well as the mothers.
Another choice would have been to take her friend’s side, scolding my daughter in front of everyone for being unkind and a bad hostess. This might have made our guests feel better but my daughter would likely have felt embarrassed, affecting the play date and the friendship.
Of all of these choices, I knew the only true choice was to show the friends how to problem solve and communicate with politeness and courtesy. This would allow them to demonstrate respect and protect their friendship. The other options were only about choosing sides and assuaging prideful feelings.
Because I took a few minutes to do my own SODAS (a problem solving exercise which stands for Situation, Options, Disadvantages, Advantages, Solution) and chose to lovingly demonstrate communication, all four of us have closer friendships, more respect for each other, and a pleasing memory of the day.
This story also demonstrates how someone learn and see the benefits of the four basic skills simply by watching another person use them. Each girl will now remember that they can disagree in an appropriate way if they have any conflicts in the future.
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