Stories that strengthen families…and interpersonal communications…

by | Mar 19, 2013

The Stories That Bind Us
Sarah Williamson

Families may want to create a mission statement similar to the ones many companies use to identify their core values.

Published: March 17, 2013

Stories that bind families together…  Quote from this site…

“Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.
Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.
“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.”
“Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”
I tend to “over-communicate” say those who have worked with me in professional life.  Always the strategic planner, making sure the dots get connected so that my team confronts challenges head-on and does not react during a crisis and fail in achieving the desired outcome.  Problem solving has always been part of my DNA.  I don’t usually wait around for a problem to rear its ugly head and make matters exponentially worse, especially costly bottom line mistakes.  It is simple, winning is my goal for the team.  Reacting when it is too late rarely produces positive results.
But the above article suggests we translate this business management discipline to the family circle by creating a mission statement.  Sounds like a great idea.  But I more often than not fail at interpersonal communications in a family scenario because communications can be highly charged with emotions and subjective thought process.  Reactions are usually defensive and even words by themselves are taken to mean something else.  The key is finding common ground during a highly stressful and emotional family circumstance.  Who really gets all this complicated problem solving stuff and why do families need to engage in team building?
For starters, the family unit is sort of a business structure but it is very personal and includes potentially dangerous politics among extended family members and the like.  The family works much better if someone is picked to lead during a critical time.  This family member or facilitator is given the freedom to kindly problem solve so that other family members see the positive step and the value of making life easier on the family unit.  Timing is also very important and should be discussed up front so that family members are receptive and willing to work effectively as a team.  Minutes of meetings are critical, including action items.  Each family member knows their individual role and the action items they own.  Team building with these simple steps will likely result in positive not negative results.  Reinforcing the greater good of the family and establishing ground rules may well provide a path of far less frustration during a critical time.

It was helpful for me to write this post and to be reminded of the heartfelt challenges families often face.  It is also worth thinking about and trying to use skill sets learned in business that may have great value mitigating a family crisis.   Our mission is to help each other more effectively under highly stressful and emotional circumstances.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

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