SOURCE: Mark Merrill
If we want our kids to become stable, healthy, well-adjusted adults, we need to do a good job when they are young of teaching them to have hard conversations. It’s hard enough for spouses to do this, so our kids need our help before they leave the nest. The advent of social media and mobile devices has made communication easier but has also made effective communication more difficult, where messages are easily misunderstood, incomplete, or inflammatory.
So before they have to break off a relationship with someone, apologize for a wrong, ask for forgiveness, or share some difficult news with someone, make sure they have understood these important principles for having difficult conversations:
Communicate in person if at all possible, not digitally.
We need to avoid using social media, direct messages, emails, or texts for difficult conversations. We’ve become so reliant on electronic communication that we are tempted to use it at the worst times or in the most delicate situations. These tools are great and appropriate for quick info, encouragement, and brief connections, but should be used sparingly, if at all, for emotionally-filled or important situations. Here’s why:
- You can’t fill in the emotional, relational gaps in 140-160 characters.
- You cannot communicate nuance and context and emotion in written words.
- People fill in the blanks without context. For example, what you meant to sound sincere may be easily misinterpreted as fake.
- Digital communication can also lead to impulsive, and regretful, communication.
- Digital communication is easier to ignore.
- In digital communication, complex issues have to be reduced to unhelpful levels of simplicity. That’s not wise.
- Digital communication tends to elicit reactive, not thoughtful, responses.
Bottom line: Nothing can replace face-to-face, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.
Practice the conversation with them.
This is a time when role-playing can be helpful. Take turns playing the role of your child, or the person they are talking to, and give it a go. Help them think through the strong emotions that come with the conversation, to anticipate the reactions, to process and respond to such a conversation, and to get through any awkwardness.
Think through the best time, place, and environment for the conversation.
We know from marriage that there are good times and very bad times to bring up sensitive issues. But our kids may not realize how important the setting and frame of mind can be. Help your child think through the best situation and environment that would be most appropriate to have the conversation.
Just by working through some of these basics, we can help our children be better at resolving conflict and relating to others.