Every time the conversation that requests I move back home ensues, it goes a little something like this:
Family: Enough is enough. Make your plans to move back. You should be with us.
Me: Apart from one, the rest of my friends all live in a different part of the country. Moving back would take the kinda money I don’t have. The city has zero prospects. All I’d be moving back for is family.
Cue: Awkward silence.
I’m yet to find an eloquent way to express how I feel about the concept.
Despite my vain attempts at explaining it, the result’s always the same:
I’m not excited by this city
We’re not enough for you
I love being immersed in new cultures and expressing myself in a different language
You’re embarrassed of who you really are
I love my friends like I love family
She’s rejecting us
I want to explore other cities and in turn develop myself
She’s lost to us now. There’s no getting her back
Worldview. Perspective. Standpoint.
Which is why, when we speak to those that don’t understand us, we must first understand them.
It goes beyond compassion.
Compassion helps dissolve anger. Provides perspective. Elevates us beyond the now. It comforts. Deconstructs. Illuminates.
Understanding them in order to be understood takes compassion … and gives it a marketing twist
I didn’t originally intend to get all business on you. But given that marketing’s what I do for a living, it makes sense to draw from it.
In marketing, the message a business delivers takes what said business wants to say, and uses the words of the target customer to express it.
When done ethically, it’s persuasive, not manipulative.
When applying this to communicating with family, the same concept applies:
What can you say to express yourself, but use words your family understands?
Begin with the message
What is it that you want them to understand? What message do you want to deliver? What’s the big issue?
Taking my example, I’d want my family to understand that I don’t want to move back to my home city. It isn’t right for me and doesn’t work for the stage of life I’m at now.
What’s your message?
Acknowledge their current worldview
How do they currently feel about your message? What words do they use to describe those feelings? What beliefs are they expressing?
Their beliefs are important. With every word, they’re showing you who they are.
Question them. Listen to their answers. Respect their worldview.
Their perspective is something that’s built over years. Of experience, change and suffering.
Understanding it, and the person holding it, requires the kind of empathy we’re all capable of.
Remember that episode of Prison Break when we’re shown the abuse T-Bag had as a child and it goes some way to explain how he came to be?
It took one hour to turn us all from hating the character with vigour, to empathising with a paedophile.
That’s the power of understanding worldview.
My family believe we support each other. Which means we live in the same city and work as a team.
With my mum, it originates from moving from her home to a foreign country, and relying on her community of Pakistanis to advise her on how to live in a new place.
So when she looks at me, she sees herself as a young woman in a foreign land, and feels the same fear she felt.
She also thinks I’m going through a phase and she can help move me along.
What worldview do your family have about your message?
What do you want them to do as a result of the message? What actions do you want them to take? How will you know the message has been understood?
The essence of your message lies in what you want to change. It wouldn’t be important otherwise. It wouldn’t mean as much as it does.
So what’s happening currently that needs to change? And what do you hope to gain from it?
For me, it would be my family not telling me to move back home every time the topic arises. It would mean we’re able to have an intelligent conversation without any emotional manipulation.
When I go home or phone my mum, I won’t have the fear in the back of my mind that that conversation will be started up again.
What change do you want to see?
Create the message
Taking both the message you want to deliver and the worldview of your family, how can you communicate your feelings in a way that they’re understood?
This is where your empathy comes into play. Your family want to feel understood. And they also want to understand you.
You can spend hours playing around with words to find the right ones, or you can explore this guide instead:
It starts with: I understand that … where you acknowledge their world view.
Followed by: Where I’m at currently is … This is where you’re voicing your message.
And concludes with: What I’d like us to do is … Here, you not only explain what you want to happen, but why.
Here’s an example:
I understand that you want me to be at home so you know I’m safe. I know that the family works better together.
Where I’m currently at is that I love being here, and I also love being where I currently live. My heart’s in both places, and I’m trying to make it work for both of us.
What I’d like us to do is not discuss this same topic every time we’re together. It’s exhausting and we don’t get anywhere with it. I’m not saying we should never discuss it – just not all the time.
Is it realistic?
Are your family ready to hear your message? Are they prepared to change?
There’s never a right time to start the discussion, but there’s definitely a wrong time.
If your family’s too angry with or immersed in a situation to think objectively, you’ll lose them at the very start.
This conversation isn’t about forcing them to change, or coercing their acceptance.
Just as in marketing where a customer will buy when they’re ready to, your family will hear the message when they’re ready.
So choose your time wisely. When they haven’t had a heated discussion, or it’s the end of the day and their will power’s waning. When emotions are calm and won’t be thrown back in your face.
Adjust or act
Is it time to deliver your message?
Make the decision whether now’s the best time to talk to them or not. And when it is, deliver your message with confidence.
Navigating discussion with those you love isn’t like an episode of Modern Family.
There’s no shared experience that brings them all together, developing into comedic conflict and culminating in a heart-warming life lesson that’s perfectly tailored for TV.
It’s messy. Repetitive. It tests your patience and pisses you off.
But it definitely has its moments.
Like the time my dad died and my mum found me crying alone in the living room.
She put her arms around me and told me: When you lose someone you love, it takes time to accept it. With each new day, God rubs balm on your heart to sooth it. And over time, you don’t miss the person you lost, but you smile at all the memories you still have of them.
My mum was a widow at a very young age. When she could have wallowed in her own grief, she stepped up and helped me through mine.
Even though I don’t believe God had anything to do with my healing, my mum certainly did.
Because whether you’re speaking to people in your personal life or in business, it all comes down to this:
Your words matter. Choose the right ones