Strategies to Make Tough Conversations More Effective

Whether you’re concerned about your daughter's decision not tovaccinate她的孩子或者你认为它的时间跟你的父母搬到一个辅助生活设施, bringing up sensitive subjects with loved ones is never easy. And if you’re not careful, your well-intended words could offend—or even alienate—your loved one.

Before you jump into a difficult conversation, invest some time into thinking about how you’re going to craft your message. A well-planned discussion is much more likely to be well-received.

Illustration by Rob Hadley, Verywell

Wait Until You Feel Calm

The matter you want to discuss is probably urgent—but that doesn’t mean it’s an emergency. Wait to hold the discussion until you’re calm enough to do so in a meaningful way.

Otherwise, your passion for the subject may cause you to say things that aren’t helpful and you may harm your relationship. Wait until you’re calm enough to bring up the subject without yelling, making accusations, or saying things that are better left unsaid.

Consider the Goal of the Conversation


例如,你害怕别人might think if you continue to allow yourelderly parents独自生活?或者,你会害怕,你不能给他们足够的helpif they stay alone?


Educate Yourself



You might also seek out people who have been through similar circumstances. For example, you might find it helpful to speak with other people who have held similar conversations with their loved ones. Ask them what parts of the conversation went well, what parts didn’t go well, and whether they have any suggestions for you.

Pick a Good Time to Talk

如果你能保持谈话面对面。一个方e call, email, or text message won’t allow you to read the other person’s身体语言而且他们不会能读你的。


Hold the conversation in a comfortable place when both you and the other person have plenty of time to talk. For some discussions, a restaurant or public venue might be appropriate. For other conversations, more privacy may be necessary. You may want to hold the conversation in your home or the other person’s home.

Don’t start the conversation unless you’ll have plenty of time to talk. The last thing you want to do is air your concerns and then run out the door. You also don't want to get halfway through a discussion only to find the other person has to leave.

If you do have to end the discussion early for any reason, make it clear that you want to revisit the conversation again.

Get the Conversation Started


Sometimes, the best way to start a delicate conversation is by relating the issue back to you. Start by saying something like, “I’ve been thinking about getting长期护理保险。Do you have long-term care insurance?” Then, you might break into a discussion abouthome care与辅助生活。

This can be a good tactic if the problem isn’t particularly urgent. It brings the subject up but isn’t confrontational.

For other subjects, you might simply acknowledge how tough it is to talk about. Say something like, “This is really hard for me to bring up. But, there’s been something weighing on my mind lately and I don’t think I’d be a good friend if I didn’t let you know.”



Make the conversation a discussion, not a debate. Arguing about medical advice or political issues won’t get you anywhere. The best way to make it a discussion is to use “I” statements. Starting sentences with phrases like, “I think…,” and “I am concerned about...” opens up a conversation.


Saying, “you” sounds accusatory and it will likely put the other person on the defensive. With the "I" or "we" approach, it’s hard for the other person to argue with how you feel or what you think.

Consider your tone of voice. Make sure you don’t come across as condescending or arrogant. Make a special effort to show that you care.


Avoid vague, general statements like, “Studies show the older you are the more likely you are to get into a car accident, so you should stop driving.”


While you shouldn’t exaggerate the risks the other person faces, be real about the possibilities the other person might face. Whether you’re fearful of legal, social, financial, psychological, or physical health consequences, share your fears.


If you do all the talking, your conversation will turn into a lecture. And no one wants to hear a lecture from their loved one.

Invite the other person to share their thoughts by asking open-ended questions. You might simply ask, “What do you think of all this?” If the person seems like they aren’t ready to change yet, ask questions about how they would know when they were ready to change.


  • “你怎么会知道什么时候是时候quit smoking?”
  • “How would you recognize when it is time to move to an assisted living facility?”
  • “Are there any circumstances that would make you consider getting that medical test?”
  • “在什么时候,你会关心你high blood pressure?”
  • “When would you know that you是不是安全开车了?”


You might also help the other person assess any potentially negative consequences they might face if they don’t take action. Here are some sample questions:

  • “What do you think might happen if you keep smoking?”
  • “如果你和爸爸住住在家里,你觉得会发生什么?”
  • “Do you worry that there may be any consequences for not getting接种疫苗?”

Sometimes, it’s best for the other person to identify the negative consequences they might face. So rather than list all the risks they face, ask them to identify their concerns.


Be willing to listen to the other person’s concerns, fears, and frustrations. Don’t interrupt and don’t jump in to disagree.


Be careful to avoid body language that shows you’re disinterested or annoyed (like rolling your eyes).


Most importantly, reflect back what you hear. Say things like, “So what I hear you telling me is that right now you’re happy with the way things are. You feel like you’re safe. But here’s how you’d know when things would need to change…”

Then, allow the other individual to clarify or offer more information.

Be Empathetic


Validate the other person’s feelings by saying things like, “I’m sure it is frustrating to hear things like this,” or “I know how important this is to you.”




  • “We both really love Dad and want him to have the best quality of life possible.”
  • “我们都关心我们的女儿的幸福,我们俩都热衷于帮助她的是尽可能健康。”
  • “Both of us want you to be as independent as possible for as long as possible.”

Recapping the fact that both of you have a common goal can be a helpful reminder that you don’t need to fight against one another. Instead, you can work together to achieve your goals.





  • “I’d be happy to schedule an appointment for you just so we could learn more information.”
  • “I can help you figure out the保险问题。Would you like us to make the call together to learn more?”
  • “We could talk to a lawyer together just to gather more information about what would happen to your house if you went into a nursing home.”
  • “I can help you set up services so you can get more help around the house.”
  • “Let’s go tour the facility together. We don’t have to make any decisions right now, but seeing an assisted living facility will give us a better idea about our options.”
  • “我可以安排开车送你到约会,我会教你如何使用一程,预约服务,可以帮助你跑腿。”

Offer to do something that may make the other person’s life a little less challenging. That may mean problem-solving, brainstorming, or offering up your services to assist. Your support may make a big difference in the other person’s willingness to take a step forward.





Don’t expect someone to change their behavior or agree to something different after just one conversation. It may take a series of conversations to help someone come to terms with a problem or better understand their choices.

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