When your teenager sits you down to come clean to you about something…When you’re on vacation and wondering whether you should try to squeeze one more thing in…When your adult kid decides to get divorced…When you’re frustrated and resentful about something with your spouse and decide to have a talk, there is something you should keep in mind.
Capt Dave Carey spent five and a half years as a POW in Vietnam. When he came on the Daily Stoic Podcast he was talking about some difficult moments he’s had with his oldest son, someone he doesn’t always see eye to eye with. “I always remind myself,” Dave explained, “that the goal of every conversation is to get to have the next conversation.”
That means try to not say things you’ll regret, avoid absolutes and judgements, don’t close doors. And as we said above, this advice applies to more than just conversations, but indeed all interactions with our kids. How successful was your vacation if it sours the whole gang on doing it again? If your teenager learns that coming clean results in being screamed at, what do you think they’ll do next time they’re mixed up in something? You want this fight with your spouse to be the last one?
Lower the stakes. Think of the future. Keep the lines of communication, of connection open. Deal with the consequences or the accountability later, for now, focus on listening, on understanding, on the relationship. Because if you try to do everything now, if you dump all your emotions out now…well, you won’t have the opportunity to talk about it later. You may not have the opportunity to talk at all later.