A Bizymoms' Exclusive Interview with Alan Godwin
1. You have dedicated yourself to helping others for over 20 years now. What inspired you to start working in this field?
I had a good friend who went through counseling to deal with impact of having grown up in a “crazy” family. It took a lot of courage and was very difficult, but it was life-transforming. In fact, I’m not sure she’d even be here today had she not taken those steps. That observation helped me see how important it is for people to grow. When an opportunity came along for me to go back to graduate school in this field, I took it. And I’ve never regretted it.
2. What causes conflict?
We clash when we get close and the closer the contact, the more likely the conflict. That’s because we all have “buttons.” These are emotional raw nerve endings that cause greater-than-expected reactions when touched. When we get close to others, our buttons rub against the buttons of others and reactions occur. We quickly get caught in a trap of reacting to each other’s reactions. I call that the “conflict trap” in my book. If done loudly, we call it “fighting like cats and dogs.” If done quietly, we call it the freeze out or the silent treatment.
3. How would religion help one to build up a good relationship with others?
Most faith traditions value the need to treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. If we actually applied those notions in our dealings with others, we’d get along better. The trouble is, we’re inclined toward self-serving behaviors, so conflict naturally occurs. When we intentionally counter our inclinations, we come closer to experiencing the benefits that relationships were designed to provide.
4. Do you think that young people are not particularly interested in finding answers to their problems through religion?
That depends on which young people we’re talking about. Some give little attention to religious ideas, assuming that such notions are outmoded and irrelevant to current life. Others are very curious and intrigued by the meaning found in religious teachings. The ideas may be ancient but the application is useful where we live today.
5. How can a mom assess herself whether she is being a good mom? And how important is it?
Kids have two big needs. On the one hand, they need love, nurturance, and understanding—the things that many moms are intuitively prone to do. On the other hand, they need limits, discipline, and consequences for misbehavior—the things that many dads are intuitively prone to do. Parents, not just moms, need to give their kids both of these, not one to the exclusion of the other. Much of parenting involves making judgment calls about how to strike that balance. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly, but “good enough” as one writer put it. And yes, parenting is very important.
6. Is it important for people to be compatible in order to have a good relationship?
A good relationship is one in which people do a good job of handling their inevitable differences whenever the need arises. I believe this is actually more important than compatibility. Compatibility is desirable but resolving differences is essential. Some incompatible people do a good job of resolving differences and have good relationships while some very compatible people mishandle their differences and have distant relationships. By resolving differences along the way, you naturally want to get closer and develop more things in common.
7. Can routine work at home be turned into relationship building work?
Sure. It can be fun. I’ll give you an example of what my wife did once. When one of our kids was little but old enough to clean her room, our girl tearfully resisted saying, “It’s too much to do. I don’t know where to start.” (We sometimes feel that way as adults, by the way.) So, my wife told her to go back in the room and put up all the red things. When she came back, she told her to go back and pick up everything green. By the time, she had worked through the color wheel, the room was clean. (Actually, a few beige things still needed to be picked up). She turned something routine into a game and, therefore, it became a relationship building experience.
8. What are the symptoms of a breaking relationship? And how soon should one act upon them in order to save the relationship?
I would say there are at least four serious warning signs. First, you argue and solve nothing or just avoid problems all together. Second, feelings of warmth have been replaced with coolness or apathy. Third, distance has replaced closeness. Finally, the relationship has turned one or both of you into worse instead of better versions of yourself. Obviously, the sooner these trends are reversed, the better. But I’m of the opinion that it’s never too late to save a relationship, as long as both parties have the willingness to do what necessary to save it.
9. Do you have any specific plans for the future?
Yes, I am currently developing the content of my book, How to Solve Your People Problems, into a curriculum that can be presented in businesses and churches. I’ll have 3 versions: People Problems at Home, People Problems at Work, and People Problems in Ministry. I loved writing the book, so I’d enjoy being able to write others at some point.
10. You are a father of three children. How do you balance your work, family and other commitments?
That’s always a challenge. Being empty nesters, we certainly have more time now than before. But life being what it is, there are always new time challenges that take the place of ones that no longer exist. It’s important to realize that there’s probably no such thing as the perfectly balanced life. We go through periods where, by necessity, we devote more time and energy to certain aspects. Flexibility is important. When we have the flexibility to shift our priorities accordingly in a healthy way, it feels balanced in a general sense.