Senator John Kerry said his remark, "If you don't study hard you get stuck in Iraq," was a joke gone awry. President George W. Bush was critical, commenting to the Associated Press that "it didn't sound like a joke to me. More important, it didn't sound like a joke to the troops." What did you think?

With the election right around the corner, the political stakes are high. Some bloggers and journalists in the Conservative camp are focused on Senator John Kerry's "campaign gaffe." Others on the Democratic team view this fixation as a GOP talking point - a smoke screen for President Bush's "inappropriately conducted war."

Our concern is more personal – what lessons can you, Sandwiched Boomers, learn about your own communication process with your emerging adult children and aging parents?
We all know that words can hurt and an offhand remark or slip of the tongue can be emotionally damaging. If the World War II motto, "loose lips sink ships," has you suffering from the foot-in-mouth syndrome, add the following to your communication strategies:

1. When addressing a sensitive subject, right off the bat, state a specific goal that you want to accomplish. Be very direct and clear in what you have to say. Don’t be side-tracked by pointing out your partner's past oppositional behavior or questionable character traits.

2. As body language and tone of voice really matter, assume a non-threatening stance in a conflict with your teenager. Calibrate your emotions, monitor the negatives and be very slow to criticize. Take some responsibility for the situation by using "I-focused" statements to clarify that what you're saying is your personal opinion.

3. Listen closely to the response without planning a rebuttal. Be empathic to another viewpoint and ask questions for greater understanding of their position. Try to step outside of your own shoes and look at the issue from a perspective that may be quite different from your own.

4. Sometimes you really do know what's best. So take a stand and hold your ground when the safety or well being of your elderly parents is at stake. Be patient as they grow to appreciate your position and accept the necessary changes in their lives, even if it’s unpopular at the present time.

5. In a conflict that is escalating, count slowly to 10 before reacting. If it looks like the discussion could raise your blood pressure or turn into an argument, walk away. Before saying something you may later regret, take some time to calm yourself down – walk around the block or breathe deep several times. But come back to the conversation later and work out a mutually agreeable solution, or at least some compromise.

If political history is prologue, it seems as if it's human nature to defend oneself against attack. No matter whether the presidential contenders are front runners or second-tier hopefuls, there's no end to the confrontations and sharp clashes.

Instead of immediately fighting back the next time you're facing what could turn into a hostile front with your partner, take some time to reflect. In an ongoing confrontation with an emerging adult child, like whether to extend her curfew, or with a parent, like giving up his car keys, try a different approach. If you're feeling particularly brave, discuss feelings you've been harboring about an issue that requires an apology. Grow from these experiences as you take the opportunity to turn negative feelings into more positive ones, teach a life lesson or form a deeper connection.

© 2007, Her Mentor Center

Author's Bio: 

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph. D. are co-founders of www.HermentorCenter.com, a website dedicated to the issues of mid-life women and www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomer women and their family relationships and publish a free Newsletter, Stepping Stones, through the website. As psychotherapists, they have a combined 40 years of private practice experience.