My preteen kid has their struggles, as many kids do. As a result, my partner and I are having a number of challenging conversations with them in order to get them to see, understand, and correct their behavior for the better. Fun times!
At first the approach was, “You messed up, and let’s discuss how you messed up, and what needs to be done to fix it.” After a while, we could see that this wasn’t working. All it did was set-up a dynamic where they knew (based on previous experience) that they were being scolded. This prompted our child to immediately shut down, to close themselves off from engaging in the work needed to help create solutions to the issue at hand.
So we’re attempting to change that dynamic. Now, we lead with “We’re having this conversation,” or “We’re about to perform this difficult work” because “WE WANT YOU TO SUCCEED.“
We want you to succeed. Not, “You messed up!” or “You have to fix this mess you helped made.” Using that “succeed” statement is creating a foundation by which we attempt to help them build solutions, as opposed to punitive action. Along with that, the goal is when they hear this and similar statements, they don’t automatically go into a defensive posture. Emotionally, “we want you to succeed” sounds less harsh than “You messed up.”
Also, it helps that our preteen, for all that he can be resistant to our advice, does trust us. This framework, repeated over and over, will help us continue to develop that.
As leaders, how do we tend to frame challenging interactions with colleagues and associates? Do we operate from a place where we assume the best intentions, and act accordingly? Or, like many, once people start messing up, do we look to punish them first? I’ve been guilty of the latter. Maybe it’s time to reset my framework, and the language I use to support it, so I can be a better professional.
As for our preteen, it’s too soon to tell if this new approach is working. I will say it’s helped shift my behavior, and that’s a good thing.