Here are a few more practical tips for optimizing your chances of success from a difficult discussion on a charged topic:
First: focus on having a realistic goal for the discussion.
- Nothing too ambitious or excessively modest.
- Be able to state it in one simple sentence.
Right way: “I want to tell my son he can’t take the car to college next semester.”
Not so right way: “I want to let him know I care about his safety, and therefore I don’t think he should take the car to college. Unless he can give me a really good reason why he’ll need it, and couldn’t make do with public transportation the way I’m sure other students do.”
Second: Ask yourself what arguments or objections you might hear from the other person.
- In their own words, please. As close as possible. You’ve probably heard them before.
- Come up with a reasonable response to each. In advance.
Right way: “She’s going to say: ‘You’re just trying to control me.”
Not so right way: “She’ll blame us for all her problems, like she always has.”
Third: Rehearse your responses in advance.
- Avoid accusations, threats, self-pity, bringing up old resentments, etc.
- Instead, strive to be Use logic to explain your position.
Right way: “We looked and there’s just no way we can afford it.”
Not so right way: “You said last time you’d pay us back and you didn’t so it just shows we can’t trust what you say.”
Fourth: Have a fallback position, just in case.
- Think of some lesser move that nonetheless brings you closer to your goal.
- Possibly a conditional agreement: if X happens, you agree to do Y.
Right way: “Suppose you do this your way and for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out. Would you agree to reconsider then?”
Not the right way at all: “That’s it, I’m tired of arguing. But don’t come crying to me when you fail.”
Nothing’s foolproof in such situations, of course. But you may be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish.