5 Tips to Talking to a Family Member About a Controversial Subject

Updated on December 3, 2019

At some point in your life, you may have to talk to a family member that is likely to cause a rift between you two, or even lead to divisions in the family. However, sometimes the problem is not the subject, but how you approach the situation. Before bringing up a controversial topic, it is vital for you to determine how best to initiate the conversation without making the other party feel like he or she is being attacked. When you know the topic you would like to discuss will lead to a controversy, it is best to be cautious.

Avoid lashing out

Even if you are upset about a particular situation, it would help if you avoided attacking the recipient of your anger. For example, if you would like to discuss a family member’s alcohol addiction, attacking him about it will cause him to become defensive. What should have been a conversation may turn ugly instead of being productive.

Give the person a chance to respond and listen

For you to understand how that family member feels, you need to be ready to listen. This is the only way you will understand what he is going through and his destructive behavior. If the controversy is drug use and abuse, it would help if you understood the underlying pressures behind this habit. This is the only way you may be able to forge towards a journey of recovery.

Focus on your goals

Before you broach the controversial topic with a family member, remember the goal of the conversation. Do you hope to convince him to seek professional help to overcome his addiction? If so, how you communicate matters a lot. Be thoughtful and choose your words carefully to avoid misinterpretation or misrepresentation of what you truly mean. Be clear in what you say and mean without being condescending.

Do not focus on who is right or wrong

During a controversy,  everyone involved probably believes they are right while others are wrong about the situation. If you have chosen to discuss the issue, the last thing you want to do is cause the family member involved to shut down instead of talking about it. Remember it does not matter who is wrong or right. What you need is a solution. Focus on that instead.

Timing matters

The response you get from the person you intend to talk to depends significantly on how and when you bring up the topic. It is essential for you to observe the family member and determine the best time to bring up the controversial topic. Raising the issue when the person is in a bad mood may not work as well as you would like. If necessary pick an environment that will make the person more agreeable to the discussion.

Controversies are normal in families. Some people choose to ignore the topic, while others prefer to confront it. Ignoring it does not make it go away. Instead, it is best to find a way to raise the issue and find a lasting solution.

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