Some of my best ideas are inspired by letters to advice columnists – Carolyn Hax, Ask Amy, Miss Manners – who present relationship puzzles to be solved. I’m amazed at how many of them begin, “How can I convince [my friend, my mother-in-law, my granddaughter ….] that she should [do/stop doing XYZ]. In fact, many of our own favorite clients began their first telephone inquiry with us in the same way.
Some are motivated purely by love: “How can I convince my Dad to quit smoking?” Others are worried about appearances: “How can I persuade my maid of honor to lose weight before my wedding?” Or not-so-hidden competition: “How can I convince my daughter-in-law to iron Son’s shirts instead of just hanging them up from the dryer?” Or some combination: “My pregnant daughter plans to stop nursing when she returns to work. How can I change her mind?”
Yes, these are all tough conversations. But not the kind Sig and I encourage. Our goal is not to “convince” anyone of anything. It’s to help participants find the answer that already lies within themselves – the answer that best meets the needs of each one. Before you start a difficult conversation, ask yourself:
Is this really any of my business? How, if at all, am I personally affected? If you’re not, that’s a strong clue to keep quiet. (Questions 3 and arguably 4)
Is my real motive appearances, what others will think? Or a power struggle? Am I being judgmental without knowing all the facts? Can I look more deeply at the long-term relationship I want to have with this person and make that my focus?
When the issue is based on love, tell the other how you feel. “Dad, I’m worried about your smoking. I love you, and I want to have you around for a very long time. I still need a Dad.” Now that’s a tough conversation worth having.