Let your conversations always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
— Colossians 4:6
It comforts me to know God knows my heart. My words may not always convey what I’d like to say, but He knows what my intentions are. He also knows the thoughts and motives of my teenager/young adult much better than I do. God’s heart for relationship is greater than we can imagine.
In days like these, competing against a phone your child looks down at every sixty seconds makes real conversation challenging. I admit I have had the same issue at times. Engaging with teenagers/young adults for any length of time for more than five minutes is a win. I learned the hard way that the thoughts, attitudes, and words I speak have consequences on what I say to my kids. With my young adults, my heart desperately wants to stay in touch with theirs. Sometimes I do this well and sometimes not so much.
As I met with my coach this past week, we discussed how important the following four questions are in any conversation.
We usually have great intentions, but sometimes the results of those intentions look different than what we had in mind. I have experienced this with my children on more than one occasion.
In Conversational Intelligence®️, author Judith E. Glaser says, “According to research, nine out of ten conversations miss the mark. There is now scientific research and data available on the chemical reactions and responses that occur as we interact with others through conversation. These new advances in neuroscience are giving us the tools to look inside our brains as we have conversations to reveal just what is going on and why.”
This information supports grabbing the opportunity to impact our relationships in the most loving and trusting way. Consider pausing, reflecting, and praying through how you want to be present in the moment and be their biggest cheerleader. Establishing a conversational ritual with your teenager/young adult during those more difficult talks is helpful.
Discuss how you can come to the conversation with some guidelines that will help make your talk a productive one, especially for those important discussions. For example, “We will always respect one another. We will not raise our voices. We will give feedback in a loving way. We will always affirm each other. We have permission to step away if needed. We will always pray at the end.”
Prior to getting together, I found it helpful to take time to think about how much I love my child and why. I understand it might not be easy at the time to do this. Sometimes we don’t like our children very much, but we always love them. Having a few questions ready to discover what is on their heart will help move things along. I suggest open-ended questions: Tell me how. What do you mean? Help me understand. And what else?
Prepare to come into the meeting without preconceived notions, assumptions, or judgments about what you think they are going to say or not say. Do your best to come in neutral. All ears. Your child will most likely check out and shut down if they sense any judgment or criticism on your part. If this is the case, you will get nowhere. Be open. Listen to understand first; then you can make your case for being understood. We are the adults in the room, and it is in our best interest and theirs to practice how healthy relationships behave.
If you are not sure what your child is saying, ask them to elaborate and explain further. One word’s definition to them could be interpreted completely differently for you. We assume we know and understand someone’s meaning, but we know and understand from our viewpoint, not theirs. We all see the world differently, through our own narrow lens, filter, and history.
Do your best to comprehend from your child’s viewpoint. Have some self-awareness. Check your tone, body language, facial expressions, and the words you use. Start there, and be satisfied with even a little progress. Your kids will sense a change in you, and that could make all the difference in your relationship.
Just yesterday, my girl called to talk to me about her boyfriend and their current struggle. First, let me say, Thank you, God, that she is asking for my advice. During the conversation, I stayed open and honest. (I was actually feeling more empathetic toward the young man’s position than hers.)
I gave her my thoughts, my opinion, and told her I would pray for her about her decisions. I would not tell her what to do—she would choose. I encouraged her in her decision-making abilities. The silver lining in the conversation came when I heard her beliefs, opinions, and thoughts about her other friendships. I got a glimpse into her heart, her values, and her confidence as a young woman. Always look for the silver lining in your conversations with your kids, you will find treasures of golden nuggets hidden in between the highs and lows of the exchange. What a gift it can be!
What kinds of adjustments will you make to create a safe space for your child to open up and be transparent with you?
 Conversational Intelligence, Routledge Publishing, 2016
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