My mother and I have always had a solid relationship and have been very open with one another—except on one point. My mother is a smoker. Although I don’t have strong objections to her smoking habits, I do have serious concerns about her smoking in my home and around my family.
I am not the only one in the family who harbors these concerns. For years Mother’s smoking has agitated the entire family, but for years it has also been a clearly taboo subject—not something that could be easily discussed. Past attempts by my sister and I to address the issue have resulted in defensiveness, resentment, and strained relationships. In fact, there was a period of time when my mother and I didn’t speak to one another due to a turbulent conversation about her smoking.
Against my family’s pleading, I decided to use my newly acquired crucial conversations skills to discuss the smoking issue with my mother. Nervous but confident, I called her. I began by asking if I could discuss an issue with her that was bothering me. She responded positively, sounding interested in what I had to say. I used “contrasting” to explain that while I respect her chosen lifestyle and did not want to offend her, I did want to resolve a concern I had regarding her smoking in my home and around my children. Instead of becoming defensive, she respectfully discussed the issue with me—even apologizing once she had learned of my concerns.
We ended the conversation having become closer to and more understanding of one another. Since the crucial conversation, Mother’s smoking hasn’t been an issue. She still enjoys her smoking, my family and I enjoy our smoke-free home, and we all enjoy a more open and honest family relationship.