Peace is not something you wish for. It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away. –John Lennon
How many times have we wished for peace and not gotten it, because we failed to make it ourselves? Peace begins within ourselves. We must take time to rest, reflect, and meditate. We must learn to control our anger and fear, to remain calm in a crisis. This doesn’t happen by itself. We have to set aside time, consciously, for peaceful contemplation, and we have to exercise discipline in order to be consistent in our practice. Then we become peace. Once we begin to establish peace within ourselves, we can work toward peace in our homes and among the members of our families.
What does peace in the family look like? It looks like people spending time together. It looks like one person going out for a short walk or retiring to an empty room to calm down before an argument gets blown out of proportion. (Both adults and children need time to calm down.) It looks like people facing each other and looking at one another directly. It looks like people smiling and laughing. It looks like parents modeling and teaching their kids problem-solving skills and ways to manage conflict, as well as managing their anger.
We can “give away” peace simply by remaining calm, approachable, and open to suggestion. We can actively listen to others with the intent to understand, rather than the intent to reply, blame, scold, or lecture.
Laurie Puhn, a family mediator wrote an article called “10 Things to Say to Keep the Peace” for Real Simple magazine online. Since these are good things to say to anyone, not just family, I am repeating them here, along with my own comments. These are excellent things to teach your kids
Thank you for your opinion. I’ll consider it. This is especially good when someone gives us an opinion that we did not ask for, especially if there is little chance that the person will follow up to see if you followed their advice. When I had cancer, I got a lot of unsolicited advice, much of which I had no intention of following, but I realized that people were offering advice because they had nothing else to offer. They were simply expressing their love and concern, so that is what I responded to, usually saying something like, “Thank you for your concern. I appreciate it.” They went away happy as a clam, because I had responded to their caring and concern, which was the real reason for the advice. Nobody checked to see if I had followed their advice.
Is this a good time for you? In your family, you should have an understanding that if the answer is yes, then the person will turn off the TV, turn away from the computer, and stop doing whatever he is doing to listen. Otherwise, the answer should be, “No, not right now.” In that case, your follow-up question is, “When would be a better time?” Be specific, and keep the appointment.
Would you like my thoughts? Rather than offer an unsolicited opinion, either wait to be asked for your thoughts or ask permission to express your thoughts. Be aware that a person may say yes simply because they don’t want to seem impolite or ungrateful. If you can see that the person is not really interested, stop and just listen. Don’t allow yourself to feel insulted because someone else didn’t want to hear your opinion.
Why don’t we get the facts? These days, it’s so easy to look up information online. There should be an understanding that the person who is proven wrong or misinformed should apologize. Then let the anger go and move on.
I need your help. Could you please…? When parents model this to their kids, they shouldn’t be surprised to hear it come out of their children’s mouths. Phrasing things as a request, rather than as an order may occasionally confuse someone who is not a native speaker of English, but it gives the other person a choice in the matter. Prefacing the request by stating that you need help gives the other person the feeling of being given an opportunity to be of service, rather than the feeling of being ordered around. The person can respond that if it is not an emergency, they will comply with your request at a later time. The understanding in your home should be that once you have agreed to do something, you are obligated to keep your agreement. Parents need to practice keeping their agreements with children. There is occasionally a temptation to promise a child something just to get him or her off your back, but if you have no intention of keeping your promise, you shouldn’t promise. Period. If the answer is no, then you should never say maybe.
Let’s wait on this until we have more information. This is a good one to use when the discussion is to be followed by some action. There should be a specific time frame within which you will get the information. Don’t put people off by saying this, thinking that it won’t come up again.
What did you mean by that? This must be said in a non-aggressive tone. You might preface this question by saying, “I don’t understand.” Your tone of voice is important, here. By the say, tone of voice is always important, and kids should be made aware of this. They often get scolded by adults for saying things in an inappropriate tone of voice. Make sure you talk to your child when both of you are calm about using tone of voice.
I don’t care for that idea. Let’s do this instead. If you don’t like someone’s suggestion, be prepared with a suggestion of your own. Be prepared to negotiate, and to give in gracefully if your suggestion is not taken.
I’m sorry you’re upset. If you’re with a family member, this is the time to ask if they need a hug. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is to listen, just listen. Note to men: If your wife is upset and starts to tell you about it, resist the urge to “fix the problem once and for all,” and just listen to her, then offer a hug and your love and support. For women, talking out the problem is part of the solution.
Let me get back to you. If you’re not prepared to deal with a question or make a decision, take a rain check, but be sure to keep your promise and get back to the person. Don’t leave them hanging.