Learning to have a discussion instead of an argument

Recently I’ve been learning the value of opening dialogue to reconnect with old friends and estranged family members. I have been on a journey of self improvement, and during this time, I’ve had an intuition about making contact with certain people I have lost contact with. I believe this is related to a desire to find knowledge, clarity, and community in those relationships. I want to find out why these relationships have failed, what I can learn from them, and if there is a worthwhile path forward.

Most people don’t know anything about me, but for the few that are close, they know my family has it’s internal problems. I’m referring to a nasty divorce between my parents, which left me disconnected from most of my siblings and my mother for the last decade.

For the past several years, I get nagging feelings to make contact with them, or to go over their house and pretend like everything is fine, and there are no hard feelings. Unfortunately, some of the disagreements run so deep, that pretending a problem doesn’t exist is an exercise in futility. Inevitably a topic will arise which will require me to respond, then there will be an explosion of tension and emotion as people start rattling off  predetermined patterns of speech that have a small bit of reality at there core. I have opted to avoid these situations as much as possible over the past decade because it is too draining. Simultaneously, I have felt alienated. As my youngest siblings are entering college, I decided I wanted to make an attempt to reconnect with them and see if I could at least help them on their journey.

I have reached out to most of the family members that have been absent from my life, but my approach has been to open a dialogue instead of win an argument. There are some toxic elements within my family that I don’t want to get wrapped up in, so I cannot commit to being too involved until I get signals that feelings are warming, and attitudes are opening.

My approach to dialogue and exploration has drastically changed my feelings towards the situation. I no longer feel that I need to have a comprehensive plan to win over my younger siblings or convince others that they are wrong, I’m simply looking for a path forward. As I progress down this road some have been more receptive to reconciliation than others, and that’s okay. I have felt an enormous sense of relief knowing I am making a good faith attempt at re-connection, while aiming for improvement instead of perfection.

Confronting people and talking about deep problems can be powerful. I’m learning that the journey should be about gaining wisdom instead of a victory. I’m learning that if my true aim is to learn honestly I can help myself and those around me.