Good Communication

Best results come when we consult before deciding.

In the book Getting Together by Roger Fisher and Scott Brown of the Harvard Negotiation Project, they make the following recommendation: “If I have an ongoing relationship with you, I should consult you before making a decision that would significantly affect you.” They go on to say, “To consult means to ask your advice. It is not enough to tell you a decision after it has been made. Consultation does not require that we agree or that I give up such authority as I may have to make a decision. But it does require that I inform you of a matter on which I may decide, that I request your advice and views and listen to them, and that I take them into account in making a decision.”

The practice of consulting others before we make decisions that will affect them, opens the lines of communication, builds trust, improves relationships, and produces better outcomes—outcomes that are the result of the combined ideas, interests, insights and experiences of everyone involved.

I have noticed the tendency of some children to fail to consult with their parents as their parents grow older. They assume they know what’s best for the parent and begin making decisions in their parent’s lives involving the parent’s finances, healthcare, living arrangements—and even small decisions like what restaurant to go to or where to sit at a family gathering. This can be demeaning and even embarrassing to the parent who wants to maintain their independence and control over his or her life for as long as possible. Unless a person is incapacitated, a good rule of thumb to follow is to always consult before making a decision.

My wife and I have a saying that we try to follow when it comes to communication. It goes like this: “Speak freely, trust completely and forgive immediately.” First, we agree to speak freely—we should feel free to express our thoughts and positions without fear of being criticized or put down. Second, we agree to trust completely—we make a commitment to always give the other person the benefit of the doubt, to assume that they have our best interest at heart and that they desire to communicate without offending or alienating us. And third, we agree to forgive immediately—we have learned that no matter how hard we try or how long we practice, we fall back into old patterns and make mistakes, and therefore we agree to forgive immediately if offended.

Communicating well with others is not easy, but it is worth the effort. By getting everyone’s point of view, it is more likely we will have a better result. Taking the time to consult before deciding will have a positive effect on any relationship.

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity.  If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

July 2017