How to Have Constructive Conversations with Loved Ones

Constructive conversations with family members who have different stances can be tricky on a normal day – I’m right, you’re wrong, with little to no middle ground. Healthy dialog has become even harder as a result of everything that has happened throughout 2020. Some of us may be cooped up with our loved ones, making conversations more irritable. Additionally, many of us have also quarantined and practiced social distancing throughout this year, and find ourselves struggling to have confidence in our conversations after getting out of the frequent habit.

Additionally, COVID-19 has made this year easily one of the more difficult holidays to maneuver. Do we gather in person? Do we celebrate virtually? Who will be there and what will the conversation look like after such a tense year?

What Are Constructive Conversations?

A constructive conversation transfers ideas between two or more people, while removing any negativity, judgment or obstacles along the way. Conversations should be easy – but they aren’t always so cut and dry. We as humans need deep, stimulating conversations. This is an important yet underrated skill, but when practiced it can result in more trusting, engaging relationships.

Aside from daily stimuli alone, the holidays require even more awareness and patience when communicating. If handled in an unhealthy way, topics like politics, religion, even social media can play a role in common family communication dysfunction, especially during holiday gatherings.

Examples of Unhealthy Conversations

Unhealthy communication habits can be hard to break, and most of the time we won’t even realize we’re doing them. So often we get in the habit of stealing the spotlight or not actively listening. It’s important to be aware of these patterns so that we can break them.

Some examples of unhealthy communication styles are:

  • Constantly interrupting
  • Multitasking
  • Using qualifiers such as “Don’t take this personally, but…”
  • Minimizing someone’s personal feelings with words such as “I know exactly how you feel!”
  • Rambling or speaking out of turn

7 Tips to Help You Have Constructive Conversations

To help have constructive conversations with your family during the holidays or during day-to-day interactions with others, follow these tips:

  1. Listen first. Be sure to pause and listen to what your friends and family are saying – don’t jump to conclusions. 
  2. Acknowledge where others are coming from. Remember that everyone has their own circumstances and their own timeline. Try to separate yourself or your beliefs from the equation.
  3. Avoid instant certainty. It’s easy to make up our mind if we are biased on the topic, but that doesn’t mean your opinion won’t change. Go into the conversation with an open mind and truly listen.
  4. Phrase your opinions as questions. Consciously work to phrase your opinions as questions during conversations so you come across respectful and open minded. Sometimes if we force our opinion, it can lead to unsettling disagreements. Avoid this by taking the time to pause and rephrase your thoughts.
  5. Be humble, no one has all the right answers. Even if you think you’re right, respect the other person’s opinion. It’s important to remember that we won’t always agree with friends and family, so sometimes it’s best to politely ‘agree to disagree’.
  6. Keep it short. Choose respecting the conversation over feeling contempt.
  7. Initiate new conversation if things take a turn. If you find that a conversation is quickly going nowhere, offer a transition topic that can take the conversation in a healthy direction.

After following these tips and you find that you’re still struggling to have constructive conversations with family members, it may be time to consider seeking family counseling.

Family Therapist in Saint Petersburg, FL

Establishing healthy boundaries for navigating conversations can take some guidance. Being able to talk to your friends and family in a constructive way is an important tool for both personal life and in your career. 

If you are looking to build communication skills for the future, we encourage you to call our office. The team at McNulty Counseling and Wellness takes a holistic approach to promote balance in all areas of your life. Contact us here or call us at 727-344-9867 to schedule a remote depression consultation or an in-person session at our office in Saint Petersburg, Florida.