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The Goal: To Explain a Significant Life Decision to Your Elderly Parents, Adult Siblings and Other Close Family Members


This could involve moving to a new state (someone else will need to drive Dad to his weekly dialysis appointments), quitting your job (you'll miss the family ski trip) or getting pregnant—with your fourth baby. Breaking the news of a major life change can throw a family into turmoil, especially when one person's news affects everyone else. You can use nonverbal communication to put your family members at ease and to help them understand your thought process.

1. Let your enthusiasm show. Goman says that neurological research has shown that positive emotions can be contagious.

2. Don't hide. "Showing the torso is one way of demonstrating a high level of confidence, security or trust," says Goman. Step out from behind the cover of a table, couch or your oversize purse.

3. Encourage your family to express their opinions. Once everyone has had a chance to weigh in, says Goman, they'll be more receptive to verbal and nonverbal messages. Realize that you may not be able to change everyone's mind. During the back-and-forth, remember that open palms signify candor and openness, and a straight back reminds listeners of your certainty and conviction.

4. Don't mirror negative body language. If someone, say your mom, gets upset and crosses her arms or clenches her hands into fists, try to keep your body in a neutral position. "Mimicking distress poses can quickly exacerbate the situation," says Goman.

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