Move Tough Conversations Forward

This article was written by the former chair of our Youth Advisory Board, Sarah Hinstorff, with contributions by Youth Advisory Board members Ilana Ginsburg and Paul Burdett.

Offer Solutions to Move Tough Conversations Forward

There’s nothing worse than to feel powerless in an interaction. But you actually have the power to make tough conversations easier. If you develop a clear viewpoint and come up with suggestions for possible solutions, you can move your discussion towards a real resolution. Planning ahead can help you avoid getting distracted by strong emotions or unrelated topics during important and tough conversations.

Taking time to consider the situation and offer potential solutions shows a willingness to openly communicate your perspective. It establishes you as a potential problem-solver. Having a clear goal for a conversation can be helpful, as long as you maintain your ability to compromise and listen to others’ ideas. Proposing solutions shows a level of maturity important in order to gain trust from parents. It also says that it matters to you to have a good relationship. These things are key in gaining more independence and maintaining healthy relationships with your parents.

Have a Clear Point of View

Open communication is the key to any relationship — whether it’s with a family member, a friend or a boy/girlfriend. One important aspect of communication is to make sure you have a clear point of view and can make your case. This can be difficult if you’re feeling emotional or upset. When you find yourself too emotional to make sense, take a break and give yourself space to collect your thoughts.

When you feel ready to approach the conversation, bring ideas that might solve the issue. This makes it easier on your parents because it takes away the need to guess what you are thinking, what’s bothering you, or what you want. You don’t need to have the solution that will fix everything right away. Sitting down and sharing your ideas can be the first step in figuring out how to solve the problem together.

Let ‘em Hear Your Solutions

Offering solutions is a productive way to get past disagreements and it’s a good strategy for getting your voice heard in even tough conversations.

For example, if your parent is concerned with your study habits, suggest you will take the responsibility of coming up with a plan for getting things done. Propose a study calendar and share it with them. Offer that you will start a study group with a few friends. Maybe tell them that you will meet with your teacher once a week to ask for help. If you show your parents that you’ll take initiative, they’ll feel less like they need to tell you what to do.

Offering your own ideas can help you achieve your goals in any conversation. But we must keep in mind that disagreement is a natural part of any relationship. Remember that criticism isn’t always helpful and can actually be hurtful. It is better to focus on how to improve the situation and to commit to making real plans for change.

You don’t need to have the solution that will fix everything right away. Sitting down and sharing your ideas can be the first step in figuring out how to solve the problem together.

Be Open to Other Solutions

There is often more than one way to solve a problem. Your parents may have ideas of their own they want to share. Welcome their suggestions. Your parents may offer helpful ideas based on their experiences over the years. Be willing to consider other perspectives. When you both bring ideas to the table, it is likely you will find common ground and work towards a compromise. You’ll often find that together you’ll come up with the kind of answer that neither of you could have come up with alone.

Earn Power through Communication

You have the ability to influence the direction of your conversations. Come into tough conversations with a plan of action. When you come with ideas for how things can be fixed or changed for the better, your parents may be more receptive to your concerns and more likely to compromise.

This not only applies to your relationship with your parents, but it may also help you in the workplace and in other relationships. Bosses appreciate problem solvers who avoid complaining. So will your friends and future spouses!

Successful people do more than say what’s broken, they suggest how to fix it.

Thoughts From Members of the Youth Advisory Board

Ilana, 22

“Without your input, parents may feel lost – as if they have to guess what’s on your mind. They’ll learn to be more supportive, if you offer them ideas . . . It is important to remember that you are not powerless. In fact, you have control over many things — including how conversations play out. If you are thoughtful and offer ideas or solutions to your parents, it is likely your relationship will improve. However, if you choose to leave them in the dark and harbor your emotions, the status quo is bound to remain the same.”

Paul, 19

“Probably the most important and powerful thing you can do in a situation like this is to come into the conversation with a plan of action already in mind. Instead of just complaining, if you come into a conversation with a solution for how things can be fixed and changed for the better, your parents will be much more receptive to your complaints and more likely to change their behaviors and mindsets. It’s also critical to remember that there are likely things you need to change as well, so if you devote time and thought to what that could be, and especially if you mention what you think you need to change to your parents, you can expect a much more productive and beneficial conversation. And lastly, don’t forget that your parents might not change anything at first, especially if they want time to think over what you have said. Try to keep a positive and open mindset, and I can guarantee you things will get better.”

About Center for Parent and Teen Communication

CPTC is fortunate to receive editorial contributions from a range of multi-disciplinary experts, journalists, youth, and more.

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