Tips for Positive Communication: for parents & young people

A guide to approaching someone

Plan calmly what you are going to say and how the person might respond. This is just to prepare you for the conversation.

Make sure it is in a 'safe place' - this means not in front of a large group of people - it is good to find somewhere private, but relaxed.

Ask the permission of the person - you have something important that you want to talk to them about - ask them when would be a good time. They will appreciate this.

Be clear about the issues - but do not be too tough on the person. It is helpful to state things about the person that you like/appreciate even if you are pointing out your concerns. Be specific.

‘Own your own feelings and beliefs’ using 'I' statements - it is not helpful to include other people who are not there. ('You are always doing that - everybody says so') Instead you can say things such as 'I was really embarrassed when you said I wasn't able to go out last week in front of my mates'

Be honest about what you want. You are hoping that things will change – be honest about what you would like – don’t leave the other person guessing. ‘I would prefer that you speak to me somewhere private. I can listen to you better and feel safer when we have a one to one rather than in front of my two sisters.’

Listen – be prepared to listen to the other person when you have shared your concerns. You could thank them for listening and say that you might not agree with everything I have to say, but say that you want to hear what they have to say.

- Mediation and Facilitation Training Manual; Mennonite Conciliation Service.


  • Avoid reacting straight away. Walk away and then come back to it when you are less angry.
  • Talk to a friend about it or approach an adult you trust.
  • Do something that you enjoy – whether that is listening to music or playing sport.
  • Write down how you feel
  • Shout at the top of your voice in an empty space.
  • Concentrate on your breathing: slowly breathe in through your nose, counting to three, hold it for two, and slowly breathe out, through your mouth. As you breathe out, imagine the anger leaving your body in a red mist.

Having difficult conversations

Sometimes it can feel like every conversation you have ends up in a vicious circle. ‘Blaming’ language is used, and nobody really gets what they want because everyone is so busy trying to get their point across. If you get angry, it is easy to stop listening and to become defensive.

You then start to feel stressed and your body releases lots of chemicals that can affect how you think. You might start feeling angry or feel like running away.

If this sounds like the sort of thing that happens to you, try using the following techniques.

Reduce your stress levels

  • Take deep breaths and deliberately breathe more slowly. This helps to change the stress chemicals that your body is making and can help you to feel calmer.

Listen to what is being said

  • Try to listen with your full attention.
  • You can’t listen and talk at the same time. The more you listen, and the less you say, the better.
  • Listen carefully to the words and also watch for body language.
  • Try not to automatically jump in if there is a pause.
  • Try to stay calm, even if you don’t feel calm.

Respond in a non-confrontational way

  • Avoid changing the subject or interrupting unnecessarily.
  • Avoid speaking too soon, too often or for too long.
  • Try using the method below to express yourself.
    1. State what has happened without blaming, criticising or judging.
    2. Say how you feel when you see or hear what has happened.
    3. Say what you need to happen.
    4. Ask for a change.