Heart V Brain – Score 0:0

By Karen Holford, Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division


To mark International Day of Families, we share some thoughts from Karen Holford, Family Therapist and Family Ministries Director Trans-European Division, who reflects on her own experience of understanding conflict within a family setting…

‘We didn’t mean to have an argument at the dinner table in front of our teenagers. We think that it’s actually good for kids to realize that their parents disagree from time to time, and that they can argue well, and make up, without damaging their relationship. But this time an innocent comment lit the touch paper, and soon the sparks were flying like a Catherine wheel on bonfire night.

Suddenly our teenage son put down his slice of pizza and stood up. “Hey you two! Stop arguing!” We stopped talking and turned to look at Nathan. We were stunned and just a teensy bit embarrassed. Then Nathan turned to his Dad and said, “Dad, you need to listen to Mum with your heart. Try to be more understanding. Listen to her feelings. Can’t you see how sad and hurt she is?”

“Go, son, go!” I thought. It was so good to know that Nathan understood me and was on my side.

But I wasn’t going to get off so lightly. He turned to me and said, “Mum, listen to dad with your mind! He has some really sensible things to say. Think about them.” Then he sat down, picked up his pizza and went on with his dinner. After a moment or two we all started talking again. None of us can even remember what we were arguing about!

Nathan taught us a very important lesson, a lesson that has helped us to have better ‘arguments’ ever since. What we learned was that our hearts and brains don’t speak the same language. When one of us is arguing from the heart of our passionate emotions and the other one is arguing from their logical and rational thoughts, we get hopelessly stuck. It’s like having an argument where one person is speaking Polish and the other person is speaking Chinese. When we don’t feel listened to we just raise our voices, hoping to be heard. But no one is really listening – we’re just trying to think of stronger and louder ways to express our own ideas.

We still argue from time to time. But now I try to listen to my husband with my brain and appreciate his rational ideas, and he tries to listen to me with his heart and understand my feelings. If I forget – he taps his head to remind me, and he forgets, I tap my heart. It might sound weird, but it helps!’

To learn more, visit the SCCR website to meet your Emotional Homunculus and discover the impact of your #CranialCocktail.

Karen Holford, Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division

Karen Holford is a qualified family therapist. She currently works across Europe training all kinds of people in how to nurture healthy, caring and peaceful relationships. And she’s still developing her listening skills! She has been married for 36 years and has three adult children and three grandchildren.

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