Family decision making tips

Learn to avoid situations that effect unproductive family decisions.

Family life can be fun, rewarding and complicated. Some of the more emotional discussions that families deal with revolve around problem solving and conflict resolution. The following are some tips to help with family decision making:

  • Avoid discussing an issue or problem at an inappropriate time. Problem solving tends to be difficult when people are angry or tired. If necessary take a time out and then come together when everyone is calmer and rested.
  • Do not begin the decision-making process with a closed mind. Be open to all ideas. You may be surprised at the creative solutions your family comes up with.
  • Be sure to actively listen to other people’s viewpoints and feelings. Right or wrong, feelings are real.
  • Clarify imprecise understandings or assumptions. Be gentle and patient.
  • Don’t let anger become a barrier to progress. Getting angry, criticizing, calling names, blaming, using sarcasm or other aggressive behavior doesn’t help. If you are angry, take a break, calm down and come back to the discussion.
  • Don’t give in. Saying, “I guess you’re right” with a big sigh, or being submissive in order to avoid conflict is not problem-solving, its avoidance.
  • Be realistic and practical. Try to clearly attach decisions to resources such as time, energy and money.
  • Avoid ultimatums. When one person gives ultimatums, they threaten other people into submitting to what they want. For example, “You’ll do it or I’ll divorce you!”
  • Be respectful. Refusing to regard individual differences in personalities, goals, values, emotional investments and lifestyles does not encourage team work.
  • Communicate directly. Using a middle-person to communicate with another family member can cause even more emotions to flare and can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Follow the Golden Rule. If you don’t take an active interest in decisions that concern other members of the family which could benefit by your involvement, don’t be hurt or surprised when others are disinterested in your problems.
  • Establish suitable boundaries around family decision making. An example of this might be who will be involved in the process; immediate family, extended family, in-laws. 

By becoming aware of these tips, families may be able to communicate effectively without anger and hurt. They will be able to create a plan that is agreeable to all involved and successfully resolve family issues.

Michigan State University Extension offers variety of educational programs throughout the state on this topic, go to their website for more details. 

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