Families and real friends don’t sugarcoat truths. On the one hand, that’s great. Only someone who really loves us will tell us something we don’t want to hear, so we won’t end up hurting ourselves. But timing and tone are everything. This article will help you deliver that dreaded news or comment without hurting the other person’s feelings, or worse, your relationship.
Speak honestly, but kindly
Don’t just tell your daughter, ‘Your boyfriend doesn’t really love you, he just wants you for sex.’ Sit her down, and say, ‘Honey, I’m bothered about some things your boyfriend does…’ and then explain your reservations.
Know when to talk, and when to listen
We love each other so much that we want to help. Sometimes that means giving advice. Many times, however, all the other person wants is a chance to vent. So listen, stifling the urge to butt in. Give advice only when he feels more open for feedback—perhaps the next day, when he’s calmer. (Read our article for more tips on communicating effectively with your family.)
Criticize the behavior not the person
Don’t say, ‘You’re so lazy!’ which is a direct attack on character. Instead, ‘You could get a lot more done if you finished your work before watching television.’
Talk about goals
Here’s another tip: people don’t like being ordered around, so if you want to change behavior, offer a vision instead. For example, if gentle reminders to finish work before watching television doesn’t work, then say: ‘You could earn x amount just by working in the morning.’ Or give a goal, ‘If you work x hours, and earned x amount, you could save for the car you wanted.’
Acknowledge small victories
The best critics are also the best cheerleaders. You may have to tell your husband, ‘You’re gaining too much weight!’ but you should also be the first to notice when he’s making healthier food choices or has lost a few inches off his beer belly.
Praise in public, criticize in private
If you do have to call someone’s attention to a fault, do it in a private conversation. That prevents embarrassment and will make him more open to your comments. But, give your praise in front of other people.
You may feel someone has a ‘fault’ but is this a personal preference or based on objective observation? Examine your motivates and seek advice from other people. For example, if you don’t approve of your teenager’s clothes (‘She looks like a slut!’) ask other parents what their kids wear, and go through magazines or fashion websites to look at trends and maybe offer an acceptable compromise. ‘Hmm, that skirt is too short for me… I like what this celeb was wearing, though, it’s sexy even if it had a longer hemline. Can we work with that?’
Photo from beliefnet.com