WHY THEY WON’T LISTEN, by Kathie Nitz, Relationship Coach

Many caregivers have a similar complaint … “I don’t know why my (parents, mom, dad, wife, husband, etc.) won’t listen to me!”  The answer is very simple.  Convincing doesn’t work!

How many of you have had this happen?  You put a lot of energy into telling someone what they should do.  You leave the discussion feeling satisfied and confident that things will shift.  The next time the topic comes up you discover they’re still wrestling with the same issue.

It’s because it was your idea not theirs so it only provided temporary relief instead of a long term solution.  They most likely never truly bought into your solution in the first place.

This is especially true in the caregiver/care recipient relationship.  Because the care recipient may feel pushed, judged or not heard, they’ll often agree with you just to be able to move beyond the topic.  When the issue resurfaces the caregiver often feels frustrated and not respected.

This cycle can keep playing out no matter what the topic.  There’s a simple solution that can break the pattern.  Ask more questions and find a place of agreement where you can deepen the conversation instead of just talking at each other.

I’ll share a personal example to help illustrate.  Whenever I visited my mom at her assisted living community, I’d check her pill holder and consistently found a problem.  It was impossible for me to know if/when she was taking her meds!  Monday and Tuesday were full, Weds. was empty, Thursday was full, Friday and Saturday were empty and Sunday was full.

When I suggested to my mom that we have the staff start dispensing her meds, my mom resisted.  Each time I would express my concern, she would insist she had taken them and we’d reach a stalemate.

Everything changed when I learned about alignment coaching during my coaches training.  This tool finally shifted the conversation by putting the issue out in front of both of us and allowing us to work as a team to come up with a solution.

This is how it went:  “Mom, I understand you believe you’re taking your medications.  You always do such a great job and you’re doing your best.  May I show you something?  Do you see how there is a randomness to which days have pills in them and which don’t? [Yes.]  Can you understand how that would be confusing to me? [Yes.]  Then let’s work together to figure out a solution.”  At this point, I sat next to her and put the pill holder in front of us.

Sitting side by side, together we looked toward the problem (represented by the pill holder) and had a conversation about solutions.  Being able to see it through neutral eyes allowed us to stay in the discussion and find a solution together.  My mom agreed to try out having someone come in and dispense her meds and we never looked back.

The next time you’re butting heads with someone (especially a loved one you’re caring for) try putting the issue out in front of you and looking at it with fresh eyes.  You may be surprised how quickly you’ll find a solution … together!


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