“I find conversations with my family of origin tend to be very one-sided...”

What if the people in your family don’t show any interest in you or your feelings? Read on…

Cat writes:

I enjoyed your 21 Days To Better Boundaries book. My question is: Are there boundaries related to conversation?

I find conversations with my family of origin tend to be very one-sided. It seems it is an unspoken rule that I am the one who listens, who asks questions, who provides encouragement and comfort. My family does not welcome interactions outside of this role. If I share something about myself, something that I am interested in, excited about, or proud of, there are no follow-up questions, no comments, just a redirect back to the other person. Could this be a boundary issue? If so, is there a way to set boundaries to have a more balanced conversation?

Dear Cat:

You would really like a two-way relationship with your family members. When you listen, you would like to receive listening in return. When you provide encouragement and comfort, you would like to receive encouragement and comfort back again.

The trouble is, your family members may not know that you want and need that. Especially if you (as it sounds like) have been in the role of one-way listener and encourager for a long time.

Maybe it’s time for you to think about how to ask for what you need. And I really do mean “how to ask”–because when people are comfortable as they are, asking them to be different can sound to them like they are being criticized. And that probably won’t result in the kind of conversation you were hoping for.

One way to do this is to ask for their help. I can imagine you saying something like, “Could I tell you more about the project I’m creating at work? I’d love to get your advice about how to handle some of the people I have to deal with.”

You’re being gently assertive by saying, “Could I tell you more about___?” and you’re supplying them with a reason to listen that may appeal to their ego.

Even if that idea doesn’t fit for you, maybe it will give you some ideas about what you can say to get back the responses you are looking for. As I say in my book, you have a right to honor your own needs… even if (at first) you are the only person in the room doing so.

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