Strategies for Difficult Conversations
Here is an outline of practical strategies for talking about adoption during difficult conversations. Below is a checklist of action items to assist your efforts before, during, and after a conversation on the topic. Since talking about adoption during a difficult conversation can be intimidating, this checklist will assist you in staying focused and making the conversation flow. You will notice one significant point throughout: You have more power during the conversation than you think.
Ask yourself these questions before entering into a conversation:
- What is your purpose for the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish? Be honest with yourself about the purpose for talking to this person or group. Avoid being critical or punishing.
- What are you assuming about this person’s intentions? No matter how you feel (rejected or intimidated), guard yourself against a judgmental attitude. Present a respectful attitude towards that person or group no matter who they are, even if they reject your message.
- Do you view this person as your opponent or your partner? Have you thought about what they might be thinking? Automatically think about that person as a dignified and intelligent individual.
- What are you assuming about this conversation? If you believe it will be difficult to be heard or understood, then you will likely fulfill that expectation. Your perception of the conversation will influence it. Try to hold an open, positive perspective on what you are working to accomplish.
- How are you feeling and how do you expect to feel during the conversation? Do you have any personal history that might trigger emotions during the conversation? Being aware of your emotions before and during the conversation will help you remain calm instead of acting on them.
- Are you contributing to any problems in the conversation? What common ground could you have with this person?
When a person is focused on abortion, approaching that person about adoption may result in arguments. Successfully winning the person or group of people over will be based primarily on how you work on your perspectives of the other person and your emotional control. You will want to both approach and continue the conversation with a soft and well-mannered tone of voice. This will help the other person remain calm.
- Become Curious. You don’t know another person’s history or the story behind the intentions for their decisions, so don’t pretend that you do. Ask questions about them and listen to them while also watching their body language. Show a positive body language and attitude. Do not interrupt them; wait until they have completely finished what they want to say. Do not take their comments against you personally. Work on understanding and respecting that person, just as you want to be understood and respected.
- Acknowledge Their Position. After listening to them, you will now want to acknowledge their point of view. Reiterate back to them what you heard them say. Show them that you understand where they are coming from. You may even draw out their point of view a little by suggesting the goal they hope to get from their position. If you feel yourself becoming defensive, you can admit that too. Noticing our natural reactions will help everyone maintain their composure. To be clear, you are not agreeing with the other person, you are only acknowledging their point of view, which is an important step towards being heard yourself.
- Your Response. Without insulting the person, clarify your position without minimizing theirs. What has this person missed by seeing it from their point of view? Do this after the person has expended all their energy on the topic.
- The Solution. Begin building solutions. How might you solve the person’s dilemma in choosing adoption as the solution for their unplanned pregnancy? Is this person aware of the vast amount of adoption resources around them? Do they need assistance in choosing a parenting or adoption plan? If they start to argue, support and build on something they say or have already said. If the discussion turns negative, you can return to asking them questions.
Practice more than you think you need to. The more you practice good conversation techniques, the easier your conversations will be.
- Success depends more on how you think and feel than on anything else
- Understand your emotions and channel them into supportive means
- Watch the other person’s emotions and help them use their emotions in a positive way
- Show positive body language and a positive attitude
- Listen and do not interrupt
- Remember what you want to accomplish
- Try to be clear, but do not assume you are being heard
- Repeatedly visualize the conversation – Imagine yourself responding well to different statements and reactions
- Visualize achieving your goal
- Practice with a friend first
How to Begin
Here are a few possible ways to begin your conversation:
- I’d like your help with something. Could we talk for a few minutes?
- Could I hear your perspective on __________? I think we have different points of view, and I’d like to hear yours.
- I’d like to talk about adoption with you, but I hope I can get your point of view first.
- I’d like you to come to a good understanding of adoption. I hope we can share our thoughts and feelings together.
- Let’s talk about all of your options before you make a decision.
These are only possibilities. Rehearse possible conversation openings.