My friend recently had an interesting dilemma. One of her children was invited to a play date at someone’s house where the father of the child smoked. The father works from home and is usually home during the day. My friend believes he is free to do as he wishes in his own home and that it’s neither her right, nor place, to share her views on this topic with the family. However, she didn’t want her child to have a 3-hour play date at this child’s house because of the smoking.
She decided the easiest approach would be to invite the girl over to her house. After the fourth play date with this girl at her house the mom of the play date finally asked if it would be OK if they had the next play date at her house. Well, my friend finally ran out of excuses for why they should come to her house.
My friend’s next decision was to be polite and completely honest. She said the other mom took it very well and actually thanked her for her honesty. The play dates have continued and, now, they sometimes meet at locations other than her house.
In the end, I think the situation was resolved well. Maybe she could have approached her sooner about her concerns, but then most of us don’t intentionally want to hurt someone’s feelings or call someone’s values or style of living into question.
Since there is no hard fast rule that says the immediate, direct approach is any better or worse than the indirect, casual, incremental approach; sticky situations need to be managed on an individual basis. A lot depends on your personal comfort level. There are many people who never shy away from conflict, and there are those that avoid it at all costs.
Regardless of your preference, or style of communicating, thinking things through before speaking is always helpful. Depending on the situation you might be able to calmly say “let me think for a moment”.
Try quickly to weigh the pros and cons, and decide on your best approach.
It’s important to be polite, but not to compromise your values. Criticizing and being intentionally confrontational is usually not an effective strategy. Keeping things simple and displaying heartfelt honesty is usually more effective. Try to balance a negative statement with a positive statement.