Might Be In Over My Head…Maybe?

PICKLES www.wifemomhouseohmy.comI have often found myself in pickles with respect to communication. While I think of communication challenges as an opportunity to grow and learn to be a better listener and communicator, they can be extremely frustrating in the moment. I was pleasantly surprised that I could use PICKLES to get out of those “sour” moments.

Last year at a parenting summit that my son’s school district does annually, I was introduced to PICKLES as presented by Kelly Duggan Shearer, LMFT. Its a method she uses in her own family and advocates not only as a communication tool but as a method to developing good interpersonal and problem solving skills.

PICKLES stands for:

P – Pick the right time

I – I’ve noticed that…

C – Concern

K – Kick around some ideas for brainstorming

L – Likes and Dislikes

E – Execute the Plan

S – Stay Connected

I love this concept because often times a problem isn’t really a PROBLEM but rather a challenge looking for a solution. Let’s break this down.

P – Pick the right time

I think many times this is the brunt of the reason that fights happen and what should be a discussion becomes a frustrated mess. For example, if you are having a problem with your teenager being late all the time, when you are rushing out the door because well you are late IS NOT the right time to really bring up the problem and expect solutions and buy in from your teen. Not that you can’t say, “I recognize that this is not the best time to talk about being late but I really would like to discuss this further with you at a better time.”

That sentence can diffuse your immediate frustration, communicate that being late is not acceptable but also sets up for a conversation when both of you have better mental and physical resources. A point to note, when you do bring up the discussion, if you are finding there is rising tension in you or the person you are communicating with, continuing the conversation at that moment will not be beneficial or productive. Pretend you are hitting pause on the DVD player. “I can sense this conversation is building in tension. Let’s take a 5 (or 10 or 15) minute break to cool the tension. Then we will return to it in a better position.”

I – I’ve noticed that…

When you start a potentially confrontational topic, approach the topic from a fairly neutral position. When you approach from a position of blame, you lose your partner in the conversation immediately. (Personally, I really struggle with this when I have hit a wall in my communication efforts. At some point, I really do get to a point where I feel so unheard that internally it moves from frustration at what is happening to frustration with the person. Definitely my growth area.)

In the late for school example, a neutral approach would be, “I have noticed that getting up and getting out the door seem to be a challenge these days. Why do you think that is such a challenge? What’s going on to make it so?”

In this example, you are really trying to understand what the other person is going through and truthfully from their perspective why the action that is frustrating is happening without a sense of blame. It is very important at this stage to truly just listen, actively listen without worry or what you should say next OR giving advice…advice at this point loses your creditability and their buy in.

A blame approach would be, “You are constantly getting up late which constantly puts us out the door late. Why are you getting up so late?”

Whatever their response is try to repeat it back to them in different words to make sure you are understanding. “So what I hear you saying is the TV on downstairs is loud which makes it difficult for you to fall asleep. You feel as though that creates lack of sleep which causes you to sleep in later.” If you get it wrong and you sense frustration from your partner in the conversation, express you really want to understand what they are feeling and if you could try again. If not, its okay to table it until later.

C – Concern

Once they have express their feelings, express yours, again as neutral as possible by addressing the problem, not the person.  Continuing our late example, “I’m concerned because being late out the door puts the entire schedule off for everyone and starts an huge snowball effect. It makes your sister late for school, me late for work and appointments, and so on.”

Ask permission to try to figure out a way to meet both needs. Even with middle schoolers and late elementary, this is a good approach to take and definitely a good one to take with a spouse or friend. “I understand your concern about not getting enough sleep & you have heard my concern about how not getting out the door on time causes a ripple effect in everyone’s schedules. I’d like to see if we, together, can figure out a way to meet and address both our concerns.”

K – Kick around some ideas for brainstorming

If you want buy in and their for have a greater chance that whatever the solution is to really be tried by your partner, then they need to place an active role. At this stage any idea should be considered but try to stick to 5 feasible ideas. The more your partner contributes the better the odds of them doing the final solution. In our late example, some solutions might be everyone goes to bed at the same time, ear plugs, a better alarm clock, take a shower before bed so you can sleep in longer, have the TV turned down, etc.

L – Likes and Dislikes

This is really the evaluation stage and negotiating stage. It needs to first and foremost be doable. Second, it needs to meet your needs, your partners needs or at least enough of both so each party is satisfied. In our example, the solutions that will best meet everyone’s needs are the teen taking a shower at night so they can sleep in longer as well as potentially avoid the noisy TV but also turning the TV down to a reasonable volume that allows the teen to sleep.

E – Execute the Plan

This is really simple. Put in action what you just decided. Not all solutions are going to work. Talk about what to do if they don’t. This can and probably most time will be “Let’s give this a try but if for some reason it doesn’t, can we agree to revisit and re-evaluate to determine a better solution?”

S – Stay Connected

Communication takes active effort while talking is just a fast act. Communicating and maintaining relationship can be emotionally draining when they are strained but putting in the extra efforts of going through the above cooperative effort can go a long way. That said, it doesn’t stop their. Staying connected helps each party know theat are liked by the other. Schedule to watch a movie with them either in the theater or at home on the couch, to get ice cream or even sending them  a quick note helps to maintain the relationship and to building an even stronger one.

So the next time you are in a communication frustration pickle, just think of PICKLES.

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