Earlier this year, we started a short series of posts about having difficult conversations with your aging loved ones. In the first post, we discussed how to prepare for potentially stressful conversations. In the second post, we moved on to the day of your difficult discussion, with ideas of how to start and end the conversation with minimal stress.
However, when talking about stressful topics like health, aging, or finances, conflict is sometimes inevitable. In our final post in this series, we’ll offer some suggestions for how to respond to conflict when it arises.
Resolving Conflict With the STATE Method
The book Crucial Conversations outlines the STATE method, as a way of working through conflict outside of being “right” or “wrong”. Check out this article for a more in-depth examination of the book and the STATE Method.
Share Your Facts, THEN Tell Your Story
The STATE Method separates out the facts from your interpretation of them. When conflict arises, taking a moment to identifying the facts of the situation ensures that you can separate your emotions and opinions from specific events. After that, you can share your “story”: how you interpreted the facts and how they made or are making you feel.
Ask Another To Share
After you have explained the facts, emotions, and impacts that you experienced, ask your parent to share their own facts and story. If emotions are very high, you may both wish to start by writing these pieces down, and then you can swap, read, and talk through them.
Talk Tentatively & Encourage Different Opinions
It can be difficult to have healthy disagreements with anyone, and sometimes it’s even harder with our parents. Keeping your language tentative (“it seemed to me,” or “I interpreted this to mean”) offers room for disagreement without calling the other person wrong. Further, offering space for the other person to disagree (“did you interpret that differently?” or “I think you had a different perspective; can you tell me more?”) helps both of you to express your experiences without arguing over who is correct.