The brain injury experience is a very complex experience. Overnight, so many things change and so many adjustments need to made. Throughout this experience, brain injury survivors have goals, concerns and aspirations. Loved ones also have their own goals, concerns and aspirations which may or may not be the same as those of the survivors. The survivors and their loved ones try their best to achieve hoped-for outcomes. Sometimes, these differences in desired outcomes lead to conflicts. One of the underlying reasons for these conflicts is poor communication.
Family members, injury or no injury, tend to make assumptions about each other. In fact, we all engage in some form of “mind reading” in which we guess at what the other person is thinking. For instance, if one person is looking at a second person prior to entering a door the first person may “mind read” and think, “The other person is looking at me because they want me to walk through the door first.” There is no actual words spoken, just assumptions made. This generally works fine in simple situations but there are problems when we engage in “mind reading” in place of actual, open communication for important issues. A simple look or smile does not say “I am hoping that a month or two after discharging from therapy I can return back to working and driving” or “I am worried that my son will want to return to mountain climbing where he could fall and hurt his brain again.”
A good place to start open communication is to have a family meeting in which goals, concerns and aspirations are talked about. The meeting should be planned in advance with all parties informed of the purpose of the meeting. This gives each family member time to organize their thoughts about these issues. Many survivors benefit from writing a list of topics they want to discuss at the meeting to help them avoid forgetting about a topic. A meeting of this sort does not need to be the final word on any topic. In fact, it is good to say from the start that everyone at the meeting may not (and perhaps are likely to not) agree with what others are saying. Particularly at the first meeting of this sort, it is not important to make decisions regarding the future. Instead it is more important to open the lines of communication so each person can know what the other is thinking and “mind reading” can be avoided. Opening the lines of communication in such a formal manner may seem awkward to some but it helps ensure that an actual discussion of the goals, concerns and aspirations of each family member will actually be discussed rather than devolving into other conversations. Once these lines of communication are opened and everyone has a chance to openly discuss their thoughts, it is much easier in the future to re-visit these topics in a fully open manner. Open communication can ultimately allow family members to walk hand-in-hand into the future with less conflict.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center! Visit us at: http://tlcrehab.org/