How to Navigate Difficult Conversations

How to Navigate Difficult Conversations

by Amy Neiman, LMSW

Difficult conversations are well, difficult. As parents, spouses and children, we must have discussions that are challenging and can be life-changing for those involved, but they are never fun conversations to begin. As we watch our parents age, these exchanges often revolve around medical care, housing and what many think of as independence. How do you tell a parent that it is time to give up driving? What about talks regarding housing and in-home help?  How do you let your parent know that you are “on their side” while sharing your concerns about their well-being?

The first step is to take a deep breath and start the conversation. This might be the hardest part of the process. We tend to put off doing what makes us nervous, is complicated or may lead to discomfort. Making the leap and beginning the discussion is huge. Opening a dialogue—one that goes both ways–is helpful. It is important that your parent or loved-one understands that you are not making decisions without their input.  Be sure to listen thoughtfully to their fears and concerns. Then it is a slow move forward.

Here are a few pointers to remember when starting hard conversations.

  • Be aware that strong memories may be attached to driving, a house or a trusted doctor.
  • Stay positive!
  • Listen without judgement.
  • Give it time. This is not a one and done conversation! It may take time for your parent or loved one to get used to the idea you are presenting.
  • Express your concerns openly, but with compassion.
  • Remember that multiple short conversations can be more productive than one in depth discussion.
  • Set realistic expectations.  Try not to get discouraged if the conversation doesn’t go well at first. Difficult topics create tension. Take another shot at it when things have cooled down.
  • Start talking early so you have time to build on previous conversations.

Plant an idea during your talks and then build the picture together in partnership. Accept their feedback and suggestions so they are part of the decision-making process. And remember that CJFS is always here to help facilitate healthy, effective communication.

Counseling from CJFS is confidential, and it is often covered by insurance.

To learn more, visit https://cjfsbham.org/our-mission/professional-counseling/,

 email jfs@cjfsbham.org or call 205.879-3438.