Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CPS - Collaborative problem solving between spouses

 The following comment by Teresa Atkin made me appreciate how valuable a tool  CPS – collaborative problem solving is for families – not only for solving problems between parents and kids and of course between kids themselves but also important for the marriage relationship. So raising kids with CPS, prepares them for life and especially for marriage.

'All too often, women think that talking to our husbands is the way to make them see how their behavior affects us. If the behavior doesn't change when we first bring it up, we want to talk more, longer, or louder because we think maybe they didn't get it the first time. One of the biggest pet peeves for men is that feeling of being nagged or badgered, especially if they don't know what the problem really is. Also, the rules of polite, kind, nice conversation that women try to follow often come off as indirect, manipulative and mysterious to men. Women often conclude that their husbands don't care because they haven't changed after a particular conversation. '

What really amazed me was that same lack of skills that parents display when trying to solve problems with kids is evident when trying to solve a problem with a spouse. The husband is coming out of the conversation not really knowing what the problem really is and the woman comes off as indirect and mysterious.

This is because the woman has difficulty in articulating the problem and her concerns and in most cases is being too general and vague. She may be talking about behaviors which can be happening in many different situations and  contexts, such as 'not helping' and with this type of ' clumping '  of problems together , the man does not have a clue what the woman is saying. When the problem is too general and vague the man will have difficulty in responding in an effective manner. The response will be defensive and vague. Problems can only be solved when they are defined, are very specific and in detail.

Before I share in a real problem in the home, here are some tips to help one be more successful problem solvers. CPS is a skill and needs practice.

1 CPS is most effective when done in a pro-active way and not in the heat of the moment. Make a specific time with your spouse to have these discussions.
2 Focus on problems, not behaviors - not helping is a behavior, an untidy home is an unsolved problem
3. Try to understand your spouse's perspective and getting a clear understanding of his concerns before you put your own concerns on the table. If you are willing to hear him/her   and make him/her feel understood, he/she will understand your concerns.
4 The first stage of the CPS process , the empathy or information gathering stage must be specific -  ' I have noticed that when I am getting the kids ready for school , you do not help me – what's up  ( no blame , not telling the spouse what to do , just seeking info )
5 We focus on concerns not solutions. People make the mistake and present their concerns as solutions. If we put concerns on the table, we can in a collaborative way brainstorm mutually satisfying solutions. If we put solutions on the table , the discussion ends up in bargaining or dueling solutions.

Case 1
Empathy –info gathering stage
DW( dear wife )  ' I have noticed that when I am busy getting the kids to ready for school in the morning , you don't help me -  what's up ?
DH-( concerns) I come home from morning prayers and I am very rushed to have breakfast and  get ready for work so I don't miss the train.
DW( concerns ) I am concerned if I don't get your help kids will continue to be very pressurized in the mornings and sometimes be late for school and  also I don't have enough time for myself.
Invitation step – here we define the problem by putting both concerns along side each other
Dw – can we think of a way so that the kids don't feel so pressurized in the mornings and both you and I have the time for ourselves – have a bite, get ready for work etc
Brainstorm realistic and durable mutually satisfying solutions
Here are a few suggestions – dh helping the night before , eating a sandwich on the train, reorganizing his early morning schedule, getting outside help, waking up earlier etc
Review how the solution is working in practice

Case 2
Empathy stage
Dh- I have noticed when I give a small talk to our guests at the Sabbath table, you don't listen and talk to our youngest child – what's up ?
Dw  I am concerned that our  child will be wild and scream and this will disturb you and  the guests, so I try to keep her calm by talking softly to her
Dh I  would like you to also hear my talk and I still find it very distracting when you even talk  softly to our youngest when I am speaking.
Invitation stage  -can we think of a way where you can fully listen to my talk and our youngest does not disturb us.
Brainstorming  to find realistic and durable mutually satisfying  solutions - 


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