Do you ever wish you could start a conversation to get someone else to change their behavior … but you don’t know how to bring it up?
You don’t have to silence yourself and stew about their frustrating behavior. Instead follow this tip to initiate awkward conversations and get more of what you want.
Use a ‘pre-frame’ to the conversation
A pre-frame is a way of opening a conversation that describes the current problem without placing blame or requiring a solution. It allows for all perspectives – yours, theirs and ones you haven’t thought of. It sets you up for a caring and constructive conversation (for both parties involved).
Here’s an example: let’s say you feel like your in-laws are visiting too often and being intrusive. You might feel like saying: “Your parents come over too often. I can’t stand how they drop in, and I feel like next time I’m just going to scream!”
Here is a five-line script to bring up awkward conversations using a pre-frame:
Line #1: “I want to talk with you about how we want to make a relationship work with your parents.”
This opening phrase indicates the topic you want to talk about in a neutral way; it doesn’t place any blame (even though you might think it’s their fault). This approach doesn’t interfere with the fiery feeling of your frustration nor does it criticize or accuse. You create good will and make it easy for them to engage in a constructive conversation with you without feeling defensive.
Line #2: “The reason I’m bringing this up is because … I find we have different experiences when your parents come over.”
This line honors that each of you have your experience, but introduces the conflict with yours. You can start to indicate that “it seems that you are OK with it, and you may be unaware that it’s not easy for me when they come over unannounced.” You might even include your feelings about it if you can say it in a neutral (not emotional) way: “I feel frustrated about …”
Line #3: “I want to hear what’s important to you about how often they visit.”
This statement indicates you respect and take interest in their point of view. In turn, they will feel included and cared for. You will likely find out what’s really going on for them to allow the irritating behavior (e.g., maybe he feels he can’t say anything to his parents; maybe his grandparents used to visit every day when he was growing up; etc.)
Line #4: “And then I’d like to share what’s important to me about it …”
In this statement, you are honoring that you have a point of view too. This sets up a structure so you will have your chance to share how you feel about the current situation, what you want and why it’s important to you. You want to be able to have a say in controlling family time.
Line #5: “… so we can find a balance of how often they visit that feels good for all of us (including the kids).”
This line reminds both of you to try to balance everyone’s needs; there is a bigger picture than the feelings you both have about the situation.