3+3 things you need to know about handling conflicts with your host family
Conflicts are like the common cold - you can take all your vitamins and hydrate, but they still happen sometimes. What is important to know that there are some pretty easy ways to both prevent and de-escalate conflicts and not get carried away with emotions. Here are 3 helpful tips on how to prevent conflicts with your host family 1. Communication, communication, communication This is probably one of the main reasons conflicts happen in the first place - somebody has misunderstood someone else. To prevent this please remember that reading your mind is not something anyone can do. If you are struggling with something, let your host parents know. The same goes for them - if you think they have a problem with something you have done, let them know that you would like them to discuss it with you. Be calm and polite and don't jump to conclusions. 2. Understanding the culture A lot of conflicts arise with au pairs and host families due to cultural differences. You have come to a whole new country with a whole new way of doing things. Getting to know each little difference between your culture and Germany will take a whole lifetime. But getting to know the basics is important! And it's important to do it fast. Ask questions - How is this done here? What does it mean when people do/say that or go there? Germans are very direct and honest, so you will get answers to your questions for sure! An important side note: because of this straight-forwardness Germans sometimes come across as rude. Usually this isn't the case however - they are just very used to saying things as they see them.
3. Active listening + reflective listening (mirroring) When talking about problems it is important to keep an open mind, remember that this is not an attack against you as a person, but an issue with a specific thing and use active and reflective listening. Active listening is made up of 4 key principles 1. Interest - actively thinking that what is told to you is important 2. Readiness to listen - not taking it personally 3. Ability to listen - concentration to what is being said 4. To be completely present or "all there" - sending physical signals of your engagement (nodding, other physical reactions that show you are fully concentrated to the task at hand) Reflective listening (mirroring) basically means reflecting back what is said to you in a neutral way. For example: Your host mom tells you “You came home too late yesterday, we expect you back by 11pm on a weeknight” It's quite tempting to say - but I'm an adult and as long as I can get up in the morning it's nobody's business how long I`m out - but please don`t. Instead reflect it neutrally: “I came home after 11pm yesterday, but you`d like me to be here by 11pm.” This makes it easier to have a calm conversation about the issue - them wanting you to be home at 11 and you wanting to stay out later sometimes. You can try something like - “I`m sorry if I worried you. I was out with a friend and lost track of time. If this ever happens again, would you like me to text/call you and let you know?”
And now 3 handy ways to de-escalate and resolve conflicts 1. Stay respectful + polite and try to see their point of view If you can keep your cool it will make it easier for them to do the same. Use active listening however - otherwise you can come across as indifferent. Try and see it from their point of view and help them see yours. Important note: If you think it will be hard to stay calm, then prepare written notes for yourself - this is super useful if you`re only speaking in German and you can't always find the right words. 2. Stay on point and be brief Like we said - Germans are very straightforward. Keep this also in mind when resolving conflicts - don`t get carried away with other topics - only resolve 1 conflict at a time. Always. 3. Use active and reflective listening (again) Yes, this point again. Because it's very important. Not just with your host family, but with every single conflict you come across in life. If conflicts are very common between you and your host family, then it might mean you are not a good fit for one another. If you cannot resolve these issues on your own, then reach out to your agency. If they also find it hard to help you or do not respond to your questions, get in touch with The Next Step or any other organization working with au pairs and young immigrants.