Perhaps it’s about career choices: maybe you want to pursue an entrepreneurial or creative career, or don’t want to attend university. Or it could be about relationships: you might want to get engaged, or to contact your birth parents. Or possibly it’s down to lifestyle choices: perhaps you want tattoos and piercings, or you plan on traveling in Latin America instead of applying for internships. Yet no matter what it’s about, you’re hurt.
The moment when your dreams and your family’s wishes for you come into conflict is horrible. Whether it’s expressed through pained looks and silence or arguments and tears, it’s a guilt-inducing, anxiety-provoking situation. Maybe you’re desperate to repair the relationship, or full of anger and resentment, as you ask why your family won’t believe in you and respect your dreams.
It’s normal to feel guilty, anxious, or resentful, but that doesn’t make these feelings productive. Communicating with your family with empathy, on the other hand, is. Remember: they are questioning your idea because they love you. They feel just as anxious and guilty as you do.
There are seven important questions that you need to know the answers to before you begin this conversation with your family. These answers will make it easier for you to know what the right choice is, and, if you do go ahead with your plan, they’ll help you to both explain your decision to your family and succeed with your goal.
1. Why do your family members want you to do or not do, this? This is an important question, both for making your decision and for connecting with your family. If you’re going to ignore their wishes, this will come in useful for explaining why. You can use this as an opportunity to demonstrate how much you respect them and how much thought you’ve put into this decision.
So think hard about the answer to this question, and really go in depth. You need to empathize with your family. Writing it down might be helpful.
2. Why do you want to do or not do this? You should have a really good answer for this question, so if you can’t already write an essay on it, you need to do some soul searching. Set aside some time to think hard about it so you can explain your dreams persuasively and passionately to your family.
3. What’s the worst and the best that could happen? Picture the worst case situation in detail. Imagine how it will affect your life, your daily routine, your social circles, and your happiness. Ask yourself: are you okay with this possibility? If it happens, will you still be glad you tried?
If you can do this and still think it’s worth the risk, that’s a good sign. However, if you can’t bear the thought of it, maybe you should be listening to what your family is saying.
4. What’s your realistic expectation? Mediocrity can be harder than failure. Picture, in depth, what will probably happen. Whether it’s realizing why your birth parents gave you up, or never having enough money to give as much support as you’d like to your children, or working twelve-hour days, you need to have considered it. Is this enough for you? Will you still find it rewarding and fulfilling, or does the thought leave you deflated?
5. What’s your plan? Show your family that you’re responsible, and help yourself find success, by making a detailed plan. What are you going to do? When? And what’s next?
And when you’ve done that, make your backup plan. And your Plan C, and if you can, Plan D. Not only is it good to be prepared for every eventuality, but it’ll reassure your family that you’re making sensible decisions.
6. What’s your safety net? Your family is picturing that same worst case situation you thought about in question three. You’ve hopefully accepted that it could happen—but I’m sure you don’t want it to. What can you do to give yourself a safety net, and what would make you fall on it?
If you choose to pursue a creative career, for example, what skills will you develop so you can switch jobs should you need to? If you decide to apply for a low-ranking university rather than a prestigious one, what else will you do to make sure your résumé is impressive? If you decide to go traveling, how can you ensure you remain safe and your career prospects don’t suffer?
7. What’s your give up point? This is the hardest question. We never want to consider failure, but it’s important that we admit it might happen. Making this decision will not only show your family your maturity, but also give you more focus if you pursue your choice.
Congratulations: you made it to the end of the seven questions. Despite all the thinking you’ve done, you probably still have a difficult decision to make and an even more difficult conversation ahead of you. However, having answered these seven questions, you can know that you’re not entering into it lightly. If you now agree with your family, remember that you’re not giving up: you thought about it hard, and decided that it wasn’t a sensible decision. Alternatively, if you’re following your own path, then you probably feel more determined than ever. You also have all the information to show your family that, not only do you respect them, but they can also trust in your decision and be proud of your maturity, forethought, and ambitions.
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