A good family-nanny relationship does not merely exist, it must be worked on every day just like relationships with family members and co-workers. As in any job, communicating expectations, concerns, changes, and progress on a regular basis between employer and employee are crucial to success. In any work environment, employees can expect to have daily contact with their direct supervisors and regularly scheduled meetings to discuss progress, expectations, and challenges. Your level of communication should be no different!
We have all faced difficult conversations in our personal and private lives. We have all also faced situations where it was easier to not have a conversation than face the challenging confrontation ahead. However difficult, the best thing to do is to tackle the conversation in a way that will create better outcomes for all parties. Please feel free to reach out to us for advice on navigating any difficult conversations, we are always happy to hear from you!
Here are some steps to ensure your conversation has the best possible outcome:
Identify Issues + Write Them Down
Rather than scripting your intro or discussion, jot down some notes about what is really bothering you. If you write down issues vaguely like “you’re always late” or “you never follow the schedule”, the other party will immediately jump on the defensive with examples of every time your statement was false. Instead, write down how it makes you feel and how it affects you or the nanny-family relationship.
Ask Yourself Several Questions
a. What is the purpose of this conversation? What do you hope to accomplish? What is your ideal outcome? If your answers are punitive, consider re-evaluating. The conversation is more likely to be a success if you are seeking to support and improve.
b. What assumptions are you making about the other person? Challenge these assumptions.
c. Are you being triggered by the situation? Is there a backstory or something that is causing you to make the situation seem more dire or stressful than necessary based on past experiences and fear?
d. How might you be contributing to the problem? This will help with empathy and approaching the issue as a team.
Change Your Mindset
If you are faced with a “difficult conversation” you have most likely already created the mindset that it will be difficult. This perspective could be making you more nervous and potentially causing you to dig your heels into a position. Take a step back and re-frame the conversation in your mind as an exciting opportunity for you to work together as a team to solve a problem and improve your working relationship. So often we need to be reminded that perspective is everything! Stepping back to an open helpful mindset is reframing the original problem “something must be in their way preventing them from being on time, what could I be missing.”
Set A Time + Agree To Talk In Person
Never start these vital conversations any way other than face to face. There is too much room for misinterpretation, defensiveness, or avoidance. You may think an email list of concerns sounds like a good idea, but the tone is everything when trying to create a feeling of teamwork rather than blame.
Take regular pauses and focused breaths to ensure that your emotions are not ruling your speech or preventing you from listening to what the other person has to say. Emotional statements often come out more harsh or final than intended and more often than not, take the conversation in a defensive, positional direction.
If the conversation becomes too heated and less productive, gently request a small break for everyone to regulate themselves so you can both return to the important conversation with a more balanced approach. Ten minutes (or even two days, when communicated clearly), may give all parties involved the space they need to approach the conversation in the best way possible. Take a drink of water, a short walk, or if you are looking at solutions, a break to do some solution-focused research.
Don’t prepare your counterargument or get defensive while the other person is talking. Truly listen to what the other person is saying and where they are coming from so you can understand their needs as equal barriers to your joint success. If you catch yourself thinking “that’s not true”, or wanting to roll your eyes, check your thoughts and just listen. If you need more information, ask questions in an open, honest manner. Your goal should be to learn more about the other person’s perspective. Wait until they are finished before sharing your perspective.
Make sure they know you are listening and you heard them. No qualifiers (but, however…) or problem-solving, just hearing what they have to say. Often in these situations we, or those we are talking with, repeat ourselves over and over. This is a sign that we do not feel heard or understood, or that we’re actively processing the details in real-time. This often happens when the conversation speeds past listening and jumps right to solutions or demanding solutions before providing acknowledgment.
Once everyone has had time to share their perspective and has acknowledged the other person’s experiences, recap all the issues brought up on both sides and brainstorm solutions that address them. Make it fun – no solution is stupid! Work from there to find a set of measurable solutions that address all the issues. It is important they are measurable so you can check in at regular intervals to see if they are working.
Schedule regular check-ins to make sure the solutions are working, discuss possible adjustments and generally see how the other person is doing. Creating the space for these conversations means there is no build-up or dread, or assuming any “talk” is negative. The space is reliably there, at regular time increments, for this exact purpose. Even if everything is going well, make sure to talk to strengthen your relationship and trust. Scheduling weekly check-ins is a great practice for normalizing these sorts of respectful, frank conversations. Another reason to follow up is maybe the issue was not solved in one conversation, or some people involved require time to think on their own before being ready to fully process and problem-solve. It is ok not to fix everything in one hour-long talk. Don’t hold yourself to an arbitrary expectation of solving a problem in the first go, especially if communication has been spotty beforehand. Developing this sort of mutually respectful, engaged professional communication is a practice that improves over time, so make it a priority and keep at it!
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