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:
  1. Avoid discussing an issue or problem at an inappropriate time. Problem solving tends to be difficult when people are angry or tired. Have a discussion when everyone is calm.
  2. Do not begin the decision making process with a closed mind. You may be surprised at the creative solutions your family creates together when everyone is open.
  3. Be sure to listen to other people’s viewpoints and feelings. Agree or disagree, those are their feelings. Respect them.
  4. Clarify to make sure you understand correctly and you are not making assumptions.  Always check to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  5. Do not let anger become a barrier to progress. Getting angry, criticizing, calling names, blaming, using sarcasm or other aggressive behavior does not help. If you are angry, take a break.
  6. Do not give in just because it is easier. Saying, “I guess you’re right” with a big sigh, or being submissive in order to avoid conflict is not problem solving, its avoidance.
  7. Be realistic. Try to attach decisions to resources such as time, energy and money.
  8. Avoid ultimatums. Ultimatums threaten other people into submitting to what they want. For example, “You’ll do it or I’ll divorce you!”
  9. Be respectful. Refusing to regard individual differences in personalities, goals, values, emotional investments and lifestyles does not encourage teamwork. Go back to tip # 3.
  10. Communicate directly. Using a middle-person to communicate with another family member can cause even more emotions to flare and can lead to misunderstandings.
  11. Be involved in family decisions. If you do not take an active interest in decisions that concern other members of the family, which could benefit by your involvement, do not be hurt when others are disinterested in your problems.
  12. Establish suitable boundaries around family decision-making. 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.

Visit the Michigan State University Extension website for more information and check out a variety of educational programs throughout the state.

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