TEN YEARS AGO, a very pregnant Carly Stasko and her husband, Trevor, were living in Toronto and preparing to welcome their first child. Then, about a month before her due date, Stasko received an email from her mother-in-law, Lynnette Norris. Stasko had planned a home birth, but Norris had concerns about its safety. “Are you open to a discussion?” she asked.
At the time, the two women were still building their relationship, and while they got along, they had some differences in their world views. “I thought, this issue is either going to be a wedge,” says Stasko, now 43, “or it’s going to be something that brings us together.” Stasko agreed to the call.
In the end, the conversation didn’t change either woman’s opinion, but a respectful approach allowed each to feel heard and valued. And by the time Stasko had a successful home birth shortly after, the issue no longer felt so divisive. Today, Stasko and Norris say that first big discussion helped them build a foundation of trust and avoid a legacy of resentment. “It’s like a dance,” says Stasko. “We learned how not to step on each other’s toes and how not to stay wallflowers.”
Many challenging conversations don’t go as well as this one. It can be intimidating to broach difficult topics with people we care about. Fears about how the other person will respond or about damaging a relationship can keep important conversations out of reach. But don’t despair. If there’s someone in your life you’re truly interested in having constructive dialogue with, there are a few approaches that can help.
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