Pat’s Story

Pat discovers her teenager is smoking marijuana, but pauses before she reacts.

About two years ago, I came home from work early to meet a service person. When I walked into my house, the unmistakable smell of marijuana met me at the door. My seventeen-year-old daughter had recently been home before leaving for her job. I had seen a few telltale signs of possible drug use—a change in friends, going to more parties, etc.—but I just didn’t think it would happen in my family.

At this point, if I had not been exposed to Crucial Conversations, I think I would have resorted to standard parental practices—a stern talking-to, removal of phone and car, grounding, and so forth. My training significantly helped me to take a pause and ask myself what I really wanted. The answer was easy, I wanted a great relationship with my healthy, happy, drug-free daughter. It was instantly clear to me that standard practices would not work. I decided to take some time, do some research, and think about what I was going to say.

I wrote down my contrasting statement and a couple of STATE phrases. I waited a few days to allow my thinking to be clear. I then approached my daughter. We proceeded to have a three-hour conversation. She started with denial, and she is a kid very prone to going to violence. I used every Crucial Conversation skill I could muster to keep myself in dialogue and to keep pressing the point while remembering what I really wanted.

As the model makes clear, dialogue takes time. It took a couple of hours to get her out of violence and into dialogue. We then had probably one of the best conversations of all her teen years. She seemed to really believe that I cared about her wellbeing rather than trying to prove I was right. I think this realization gave her the strength to correct her course, change friends, and pursue a healthier lifestyle. She is now a happy, drug-free college freshman, an environmentalist and vegetarian, who loves hiking, photography, and exercise more than I do!

I don’t think we would have gotten to this happy place without the Crucial Conversations skills. ◼

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the storyteller and do not reflect the view of VitalSmarts.

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