It's about communication, Abby

Well, Abby again fails to see the value in simple communication principles. Briefly, a father writes (April 4, 2010) that his two step sons (ages 14 and 15) find his and their mother's displays of affection--e.g., "a quick kiss after saying grace before meals, even in restaurants"--embarrassing and "weird." The step-father and the mother think these displays are appropriate and strengthen their relationship. Abby's advice? ". . . please consider refraining from the quick kisses when you're out in public"--an overly simple and totally unhelpful suggestion.
First, this is a textbook case of a win-lose strategy for dealing with conflict. Why not look for win-win strategies? Why should the parents give up something they value? Abby, this type of "resolution" is likely going to cause resentment which can easily spill over into other issues and to send the wrong messages to the children.
Second, Abby, your solution looks only at the surface message--the boys' dislike of the displays of affection--and fails to see that there is likely much more on the minds of the boys and perhaps of the parents as well. These need to be examined and talked about. Part of the problem, Abby, is that you're disregarding the simple principles that meanings are in people, not in words or even nonverbals such as kissing, and that each person's meaning is unique. Parents and children need to talk about the meanings they each see in this behavior. With that as a start, they can focus on a win-win solution.
This case, I think, would make an excellent exercise/discussion stimulus for the coverage of the basic principles of interpersonal communication (content and relationship messages, ambiguity), messages (meaning is in people, denotation and connotation), or conflict (win-win strategies, conflict management). Ask the students to answer the letter using their knowledge of communication. My guess is you'd get some great responses. It's also a great way to illustrate the practical value in what may at first seem "only academic."

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