On 3/19/2011, while I was waiting for my daughter at a nearby HyVee store, I took up April 2011 issue of Psychology Today magazine, a fascinating subject. I read a piece of writing on conflict resolution and the tendency toward topic proliferation. Though it deals with problems among couples, I think it applicable to conversations between parents and children or between any two parties. Here’s the note.
“The funny thing about conversation is that they can escape into fights, while at the same time they can also spread outward, proliferating into lots of distinct conversations all happening at once as one topic leads to another…. issue proliferating like mosquitoes in a summer swamp.”
Next the author gives an example of one couple’s conversation evolving from one topic “Why are you late again?” to “You are always finding faults with me” “You never admit you are right” “You start the fight again.. I should have ignored you in the first place”… The couple ended up changing topic over 20 times in less than 5 minutes.
The author thinks topic proliferation happens a lot when couples argue. It makes a conversation not only unmanageable but difficult to resolve. I see similar problem in conversations between parents and their children. I think it is very crucial to focus on the topic, one thing at a time, if parents want to have a constructive conversation with their children.