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· Child: Mom, I’m not going back to college next year.
Mom: Are you really going to quit, just like that?
· Are you really going to spend two hundred dollars on THAT?
Both examples involve using a question to make a statement or offer an opinion. In the first, the child just said, not one second ago, that she was not going back to college. When someone asks a question where none is necessary, the listener hears the judgmental intent, or senses a hidden agenda. Mom is not asking a question here, but expressing a judgmental opinion.
The thing that makes this phrase problematic is the inclusion of the word “REALLY”, which expresses disbelief, despite the child’s clear, unambiguous statement. The phrase sends the message that you think the other person is nuts, or stupid, or simply making a bad decision, and even if that’s the case, you should deal with the decision and your own opinions, much more directly and openly.
Underlying these phrases are some presuppositions that there’s something wrong with the child, or at least the decision. It’s the same for the second example.
It’s NOT going to result in a reasoned discussion. It will however, create a sense that you are manipulative
Make It Better:
If your goal is to help someone look at his decision — to look at the consequences, or pro’s and con’s, make it clear that’s your goal, rather than indirectly sneak in an opinion. For example:
· Wow, that’s a big decision. Let’s talk about it some more, so I can understand where you are coming from.
· I’m not sure that would be a good purchase, given we have some big bills coming up, so let’s talk about it.
Or, if you want to express an opinion, (and certainly you have a right to an opinion), try this:
· I’m a little uncomfortable with that, and I’d like to talk about this some more to understand.
Or, if you want to talk about ground rules and consequences (which is also within your rights, albeit something the person may not want to hear…).
· We probably need to talk about this some more, and particularly about what you want to do instead — getting a job, for example, since your father and I would expect that you contribute to the household. Let’s set a time to talk?