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  • Writer's pictureRich Haglund

Remember, people aren't the problem to be solved.

The late Thomas Monson, who served as President of the Church of Jesus Christ, once said, "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."

It's so easy to forget that. The words we say, our tone, timing, and body language can all counteract the best of intentions.

Last night, in our weekly family council, we talked about how we would support each other as we shift back to e-learning after a stay-at-h0me spring break. We have three teenagers and a second grader. Before the meeting, my wife Jen and I discussed what we thought were some reasonable, basic parameters and planned to invite our kids to tell us what other suggestions they had for getting through this unusual time.

As soon as I introduced what I thought was a reasonable time for electronic devices to be put away, the room turned into something akin to the British House of Commons. (This video is 10 minutes. You can get the gist immediately, though.)

After a few minutes not unlike those portrayed in the video, our teenagers staged a walkout. Jen and I texted a compromise to the kids, which they accepted with little complaint.

And, as usually happens, Jen, the right honorable and always savvier relationship manager, pointed out how my tone and timing sunk the chances from the beginning. Early in the meeting one of our kids suggested that I wasn't listening to their views. Sensing that what he really meant was he didn't like the fact that the parents would ultimately decide, I said something like, "The way most councils function is that all views are heard and debated and then the decision makers decide." Jen pointed out that, even if that was true and I was speaking without raising my voice, leading with that (and the aside that this isn't a democracy) immediately made the kids feel defensive.

So, here are some questions to ponder. What can we do to remember, in the heat of the moment, that the people we care about are more important than any problem we're trying to solve together? How can we orient ourselves so that discussions are focused on the problem, inviting for all participants, and therefore most fruitful?

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