Workplace Coaching Techniques to Tackle Challenging Conversations at Home

You might already know and use these coaching techniques every day at work. But you might not have thought about how you can use these same tactics when you’re having challenging conversations with your family. Whether you’re trying to effectively communicate with a partner, child or parent, these can help you to keep your cool, get your point across and make decisions that work for both of you.

Have a Goal in Mind for Each Conversation

If you’re trying to persuade someone to come round to your viewpoint, it can take more than one conversation to change their mind. Rather than starting a conversation with your larger goal in mind, think about the individual things you might need them to realise before they can see it from your perspective.

This technique also prevents you from going round in circles, because you’ll be focused on a specific outcome rather than trying to change their mind entirely, all in one go.

Build a Rapport

You might assume, because you are emotionally close to your loved one, that you have a good rapport with them. But if you’re finding it difficult to reach common ground, you might need to work on building that foundation. A rapport is about understanding each other’s feelings and communicating well.

To do that, and truly see something from their perspective, spend time talking about and doing things that they enjoy. Perhaps you drop your teen off at school and cook them dinner in the evening, but don’t see much of them in a social sense. Try asking about or participating in one of their hobbies. Listening to songs they like and ask about their friendship group.

Then, encourage your teen to do something with you. Share one of your hobbies or watch a film together that you enjoy.

Building that trust makes it easier to understand where someone is coming from and can help you to make positive compromises when you do have tricky conversations.

Active Listening

Active listening isn’t just about listening to your loved one. It’s about ensuring they know you’re listening and that they feel heard.

Jumping in with your point of view can make people think that you didn’t take their point into consideration. Try repeating a phrase they’ve said and use their statement as a launch point for your next point:

“I see how it might feel embarrassing to have to do that. Have you thought about trying…?”

Remember to use open body language throughout the conversation. Crossed arms or a tense posture can say ‘I’m not listening to you’ more than words will. Relax, face your loved one and make it obvious that they’ve got 100% of your attention.

Ask Questions

You might ask questions to help you understand the situation better, or to challenge the person to think about something in a new way. Remember to keep these questions open-ended, and not leading:

“What is it like to…?”
“How did you feel when…?”
“Can you tell me more about…?”


In coaching, a contract sets out the goals for the relationship between a coach and coachee. This will include what to expect, boundaries and how they will work together.

Though it’s not necessary to set up a written contract with your loved one, verbally setting out your goals, expectations and boundaries before a challenging conversation can help keep you on track. This way, you both know what to expect from the discussion and how best to make your point while still being respectful.

Don’t Be Afraid of Silence

It’s all too easy to want to fill a silence, especially when having a tense discussion. But silence can be a tool. It’s in stretches of silence that people have time to really think about what you’ve said. If you’ve asked your loved one a question and got no response, wait longer than you normally would before asking again or trying a different tack. Keep your attention on them but be gentle with your body language – don’t sigh or tap your foot. Simply wait and see what happens.

Sometimes people are feeling stubborn, which means it’s not the right moment. But other times, a minute of silence can give them the space to think and act as a gentle encouragement to fill the silence themselves.

Emotional Wake

Lastly, be aware of the emotional effect, or ‘wake’ you leave behind you after an interaction. Do you leave your loved one feeling positive and hopeful, or sad and drained?

Though it can be hard to feel particularly inspired after a difficult conversation, it’s worth taking the time at the end of your discussion to remind your loved one why you feel the way you do. To remind them that you care about them.

It also helps to be aware of the emotional wake you leave when you’re frustrated about something else. We’ve all had bad days and taken it out on the people around us. This can lead to people feeling frustrated or defensive, even though you thought everything was okay.

Try to keep your interactions positive, so that when you do have challenging conversations, you’re starting from neutral.

We hope these tips help you to navigate future family conversations.