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Blow Up or Clam Up

Over the past few months your daughter Wendy has started to

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Blow Up or Clam Up Over the past few months your daughter Wendy has started to date a guy who looks like he’s about ten minutes away from a felony arrest.
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date a guy who looks like he’s about ten minutes away from a

felony arrest. After only a few weeks of dating this fellow,

Wendy’s clothing preference is now far too suggestive for your

taste, and she routinely punctuates her language with expletives.

When you carefully try to talk to her about these recent changes,

she shouts accusations and insults and then withdraws to her

room where she sulks for hours on end.

Now what? Should you do something given that you’re not

the one going to silence or violence? When others clam up

(refusing to speak their minds) or blow up (communicating in a

way that is abusive and insulting), is there something you can do

tu get them to dialogue?

 

 

1 42 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS

The answer is a resounding “It depends.” If you want to let a

sleeping dog lie (or, in this case, a potential train wreck go unat­

tended) , then say nothing. It’s the other person who seems to

have something to say but refuses to open up. It’s the other per­

son who’s blown a cork. Run for cover. You can’t take responsi­

bility for someone else’s thoughts and feelings. Right?

Then again, you’ll never work through your differences until

all parties freely add to the pool of meaning. That means the peo­

ple who are blowing up or clamming up must participate as well.

And while it’s true that you can’t force others to dialogue, you

can take steps to make it safer for them to do so. After all, that’s

why they’ve sought the security of silence or violence in the first

place. They’re afraid that dialogue will make them vulnerable.

Somehow they believe that if they engage in real conversation

with you, bad things will happen. Your daughter, for instance,

believes that if she talks with you, she’ll be lectured, grounded,

and cut off from the only guy who seems to care about her.

Restoring safety is your greatest hope to get your relationship

back on track.

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