How to Have Difficult Discussions with your Loved Ones

by The Maplewood

Phone conversation

Taking care of the people we love comes naturally. When we love someone, we want them to be happy and healthy, and that often means lending a hand when they need help. However, in the case of seniors—be they parents or other loved ones—it can get to the point where you just can’t keep up with everything they need anymore. That’s when it makes sense to look at living options like senior living communities or nursing homes.

However, nobody looks forward to convincing their parents to consider a nursing home. While it is a difficult discussion, it is incredibly important for maintaining their health and happiness. Talking about something as substantial as a move to a nursing home is challenging but it doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Instead of avoiding what you fear will be an uncomfortable topic, keep these three things in mind to have productive conversations with the people you love:

  1. Change is difficult to navigate
  2. Empathy makes discussions easier
  3. We all have different goals and values

Navigating Change
It’s important to recognize that change is the underlying issue in most difficult discussions. In fact, almost every demanding topic is centered on some kind of change. Somebody might be asking for a change, explaining that something is changing, or sharing a change that already happened. Changes often evoke a negative response—it’s easy to worry about the worst possible outcome. Recognizing that changes can be hard to deal with will help your discussions be more impactful.

Understanding Others
Empathy is another important aspect of navigating difficult discussions. Conversations can become heated when it feels like you are at odds with the other person. Many times, this is because you are struggling to see things from the other person’s perspective. If you find yourself thinking “what they want just doesn’t make sense,” try to take a step back from the discussion. Could the other person be saying the same thing to themselves? It may very well be that you are talking past each other instead of working towards a resolution. The better you understand each other, the more you will be able to find common ground.

Balancing Different Values
Finally, important discussions must address the fact that we all want different things out of life. This becomes especially apparent when considering life changes, like moving to a nursing home. It can be tempting to try to “win” when you are talking with someone you care about, especially when you are confident that you know what will be best for them. However, their values might not align with yours. There’s nothing wrong with trying to change someone’s mind, but make sure you don’t do so at their expense. They may not want the same things that you want, but that doesn’t make them wrong.

Meaningful Discussions Develop Relationships
Some topics seem like they will always be challenging, but it is possible to have a healthy discussion around any subject. Approaching difficult conversations with the right perspective makes all the difference. Identifying change, focusing on empathy, and recognizing unique desires will make your discussions much more pleasant, and also more effective. All discussions are opportunities to better understand each other. When we need to talk about something that might be difficult, what we are really doing is discussing something that gives us a chance to understand another person more deeply. It is much better to face those situations head on. Whether or not you end up fully agreeing, you should find that your honesty and openness have built a stronger relationship with someone you love.

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