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Posts tagged ‘preparing for difficult conversations’

Teaching Your Kids How to Have Hard Conversations

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.


The Right Way to Prepare for Difficult Conversations

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

No matter how nice you are, no matter how nice the people around you are, there will be times when you need to have a difficult conversation. Occasional tough talks are just a part of life.

Maybe you have to talk with your spouse about a concern you have over something in your marriage. Or, maybe one of your children has made some seriously poor choices that need addressing. Perhaps there’s a situation at work that has to be addressed with either your boss or a subordinate. Whatever it is, you know that ignoring it is only going to make things worse.

Some people avoid conflict at all costs, swallowing their frustration. But it only builds up inside, causing resentment that keeps a distance in the relationship. On the other hand, some people are all too ready to jump in on situations and only end up widening the gap by their forcefulness or insensitivity.

By taking these six “right” steps, it is possible to prepare for a tough conversation that is more likely to resolve things and make your relationship stronger, rather than keep you apart.

The right issue.

It’s important to get to the root of the matter that’s sparked the need to talk. Anger is often the primary emotion we are aware of, but beneath the surface could be something else—disappointment, fear, loss. Clarifying the focus ahead of time is vital. What’s really the point here—that your son called his sister a rude name or the importance of respecting other people? Do you want to simply give him a list of banned words or a greater appreciation of the need for kindness? If the talk you need to have is with one of your kids, consider these 7 Cs for Communicating with Teens.

The right time.

When we are irked by a situation, we often want to blurt out something right there and then. But when it comes to communication, timing is everything. You might do better to wait until you have calmed down, and there is enough time to really talk. Just the other morning, I was frustrated about something with my wife, Susan, and told her all about it in the moment—even though she was trying to get out of the house on time for an important appointment. As you might suspect, it did not go well. There was another occasion, too, that led to my confession: What I Learned from a Fight with My Wife.

The right place.

Speaking plainly with someone goes much better when it occurs in a good environment. So ensure they are best positioned to hear what you have to say. Maybe taking your son out for breakfast to a diner will provide just the right amount of privacy while also taking the conversation away from home. Similarly, some couples choose not to bring tough talks into their bedroom because they want it to always be a place of intimacy and closeness, rather than tension.

The right attitude.

Remember that you may not have all the facts. You need to hear the other person’s side before you can really decide where any fault may lie. Do you want to find out the whole story, or do you just want to give them a piece of your mind? Having a humble approach communicates that you want to hear from them, not just harangue them. Even if you consider them to be in the wrong, perhaps you can start by admitting any mistakes you have made in the situation. Demonstrating your willingness to listen will encourage them to do the same. Your emotional and physical posture are important in building and maintaining healthy relationships.

The right words.

In the heat of the battle, we can end up saying things we will regret. Public speakers and salespeople will practice their presentation and pitch to get it just right. You may find it helpful to rehearse what you want to say or even jot down the main points so you don’t lose track in the heat of the moment. As you prepare, you may want to think about these 5 Powerful Types of Words for Your Marriage. Then, stay on topic and stick to the script.

The right goal.

What do you want to walk away from the conversation having achieved—winning a fight or winning the relationship? So much of the media these days, from the news to movies, would have you believe that life is all about winners and losers. But there can be a better way. At the end of the day, do you want to be right or do you want to be in right relationship?

There is no guarantee that your tough talk will end well, of course. At the end of the day, you can only be responsible for your side of the conversation. You cannot control their reaction and response. By preparing ahead of time for a tough conversation, it is more likely that barriers will be busted and bridges will be built.

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