We often avoid starting a tough conversation because we’re afraid “it won’t work.” Here’s one way to overcome that concern.
Re-think “success.” Success doesn’t have to mean the other person accepts your proposed solution. It may mean something as simple as learning what the other person really needs (listening to understand) and expressing your own needs in a compassionate way. It may mean learning to reframe the issue.
Say your goal is Mom’s agreeing to move into an attractive assisted living community. She may be set on staying in her home, where she’s close to friends, doctors, and her church. If you both look at her needs: (safety, transportation to doctors, daily reminders to take her medicine, and companionship), and what you need: (peace of mind, freedom from always being “it” when it comes to taking mom places, etc.), you can re-frame the issue: How can Mom stay in her home (or at least her neighborhood) safely and give you peace of mind and a clear conscience?
If you and Mom agree on the issue, why not continue your conversation at another time? Meantime, you and Mom can do some research. What services are available in Mom’s neighborhood? How much do they cost? How will they be paid for? Are Mom’s friends, church, or other relatives willing to chip in services or money? What about public programs? Devices to call for help in an emergency?
Mom asks her friends the same questions. The next time you talk, brainstorm all the possible solutions to meet your needs and Mom’s. Then you and Mom (and other family members) can decide together on the best path for your particular family.
When we do this exercise in our workshops, participants are astonished. A dozen or more possible solutions may emerge.
Though your first conversation didn’t resolve the issue, it was clearly a success. You agreed on a path to resolve this and other issues that might arise (and they will). You listened to each other deeply, and treated each other with respect. Each of you felt heard. You took each other’s needs and wishes seriously and showed you care about one another. Because of all this, you feel closer than ever, and you’re on a path.
Have you ever had a “failed” encounter turn out to be a success? Let us hear from you!