Handling conflict is never easy. With senior loved ones, it can be especially difficult, but it’s important to address issues that come up in order to continue a healthy, happy relationship with your senior loved one. Careage has compiled a few simple tips to help you navigate conflict with empathy, grace, and kindness.
As tempting as it can be to address conflict immediately as it comes up, there are advantages to gently putting it off. Waiting a bit gives you and your loved one time to reflect on the cause of the conflict and consider ways that you could each work towards a resolution. If there have recently been changes or stressful events in your loved one's life, you might even give them a few days to recover before broaching the subject again. When you do bring it up again, think about when this conversation will be best received. If your loved one isn't a morning person, choose a time of day when everyone is most calm. This will create a good environment for open conversation.
Choose a Comforting Location
Putting off the conversation also has the advantage of allowing you to choose an appropriate location for your chat. We all react to difficult situations better when we are in a familiar and comforting environment and that’s especially true for seniors. Choose a place that is comfortable and has minimal distractions so you can both focus. It’s also an advantage to be in a place that you both associate with positive feelings – your home or your loved one’s home for instance. A loving environment will help your loved one stay calm and feel supported.
Practice Active Listening
During difficult conversations, it's crucial to listen actively. That means showing your loved one that their thoughts and feelings are valued by giving them your full attention, maintaining eye contact, and offering validating responses such as "I understand" or "That must have been difficult." Reflect on what they've expressed to ensure you've understood correctly before responding. Sometimes, conflicts arise due to misunderstandings or unspoken feelings. Active listening fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, paving the way for more constructive resolutions. This approach allows both parties to feel heard and valued, fostering a sense of mutual respect and understanding essential for resolving conflicts.
Be Clear & Patient
Take it slow. Address one topic at a time and be specific about details. Starting by talking about yourself, your feelings, and any details relating to the event. Avoid blame and "you" statements. This will open the floor for a productive dialogue. Then listen. You should come with ideas for solutions, but also be open to ideas from your loved one.
Assume Positive Intent
Start with the premise that your loved one means well. Recognize that everyone, including yourself and your loved ones, operates with the intention of doing what they believe is right or best in any given situation. This will help you approach the conversation with empathy and compassion. Your relationships will thrive with an attitude of kindness in the midst of conflict.
With a bit of sensitivity and planning, you can confidently navigate conflict and tough conversations with aging loved ones. Careage is here to help. Keep an eye on the Careage blog for more tips on looking after your senior loved ones or contact us for more information about a Careage community near you.