Ten Simple and Effective Phrases That Help Diffuse Difficult Conversations, With Brenda Zane

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Ten Simple and Effective Phrases That Help Diffuse Difficult Conversations, With Brenda Zane

When you have a complex child, all your conversations and relationships might feel more strained. If you’re like me, you sometimes find yourself at a complete loss for words and struggle with how to diffuse or launch your communication in a helpful and productive way.

If this sounds like you, you’re in luck as I’m sharing ten very simple and highly effective phrases you can use when you’re stuck for words or your words aren’t currently working.

And to make it even easier, there’s a PDF in the show notes you can download free, so you’ve got these ten phrases handy when you need them.



This podcast is part of a nonprofit called Hopestream Community
Learn about The Stream, our private online community for moms
Learn about The Woods, our private online community for dads
Find us on Instagram: @hopestreamcommunity
Download a free e-book, Worried Sick: A Compassionate Guide For Parents When Your Teen or Young Adult Child Misuses Drugs and Alcohol

Hopestream Community is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and an Amazon Associate. We may make a small commission if you purchase from our links.

You’re listening to Hopestream, the place for those parenting teens and young adults who are misusing drugs and alcohol in a treatment program or working their way toward recovery. It’s your private space to learn and to gain encouragement and understanding from me. Your host, Brenda Zane. I’m fellow parent to a child who struggled, and I’m so glad you’re here. 

To learn more about all the resources available to you besides the podcast, please head over to HopeStreamcommunity.org.  

Welcome. I’m so glad to be with you today. I debated about what to talk about with you here, . Because I know there is just so much going on and how could I ever put my thoughts together in a way that can meet you where you are in this moment? [00:01:30] In an effort to hopefully arrive at a place. That is real true and useful for you. I’ll often find a place to go and get very still and quiet and revisit my experiences.  

 I do this because I very much consider our time together here as sacred. It’s time when you get to stop being the person you are at work. The mom or the dad you are to your kids. You get to put down the mask that you wear around that tells everybody that everything’s fine in your home. And just be together in the mock. In the good times in the uncertain times.  

I use the word sacred because this is a very vulnerable space. Whenever you’re connected with someone around your child or your children. They are our most precious and irreplaceable treasures. And you have to know you’re safe. You have to know the bond you have comes from a place of deep care and reverence. So I am honored to have this bond with you. To spend this time being real and disconnected from lives that can at times. Feel really simulated or inauthentic as we try to just get through, without everyone on the outside, knowing what’s going on on the inside.  

 So when I got quiet this week and looked inward, I kept coming back to a memory. Of standing with my son or my husband, or even people on the [00:03:00] periphery of our roller coaster ride. And I didn’t have a clue what to say. Like words literally would not come to me.  

Which was kind of incredible because I could get up and talk about things at work on a whim. Reading a room, making sure to connect with all the people who are listening, make eye contact. But when it came to my 17 year old, who was way off the rails. it was like, I just turned into this inarticulate voiceless person.  

 And if I did muster some words, they usually acted like kindling on a fire. And I wished that I had just kept quiet and walked away.  

 So now that I have some time in space, I decided it might be useful to share some words and phrases that I collected along the way. And I have used as a way of keeping a conversation, less charged. Or initiating a conversation that could potentially go in an unhealthy or unproductive direction. You may already be using some of these and if so, that is awesome. If you’re like me and you are in communication inertia, you can just swipe some of these to try out as an experiment today in the coming weeks.  

 And because I know it’s hard to remember all of this stuff. I’m putting a PDF in the show notes that you can just download or screenshot and keep it on your phone or in a file somewhere. so these phrases are handy when you need them. You can grab that at Brenda’s ane.com/podcast. And then look for episode 180 2. And it’ll be [00:04:30] there in the show notes for you.  

 Okay, ready? Here we go.  

Phrase One 

Number one. When your spidey senses up. And your mom or your dad intuition. Is ringing loudly in your chest or your ears. You can use something like this. I feel like something’s weird or. I’ve noticed you’re a little off lately. I just want to talk about it would now be okay. The last part of that is probably the most important part.  

 Asking permission here will go a long way to not getting into immediate shutdown. Your tone of voice, of course is super important. Keeping it light and curious will help keep them off the defense. And let them know you really do care and you aren’t out to provide a lecture.  

Phrase Two 

Number two when you lose it. Not that I have any experience with this, just saying. But when you react from a place of emotion, instead of responding from a place of intention, Here is the simplest way to come back. I can do better.  

 I can do better immediately, lets them know, you know, that you didn’t show up as the best version of yourself. And it exudes humility. It’s a quick, concise way. To just diffuse a situation that’s spiraling into a negative place. Or is a way to wave the white flag. If you need to circle back after an unproductive situation or conversation.  

Phrase Three 

Number three. When you totally disagree with them. There are times when your [00:06:00] child’s going to say something about something that happened and you are just flat out going to disagree. You may literally have the opposite experience or opinion. Uh, however, Getting into a power struggle, isn’t going to resolve anything and you may really want to keep the conversation going. In that case, try something like. That was your experience? Not mine. And I can’t say it’s wrong.  

 This shows that you can see both sides of a coin. You may not agree with, or like the side that isn’t yours. But you’re willing to stay engaged.  

And using a statement like this, Mike, keep them going and might keep them talking versus the other person totally shutting down. Or getting the door slammed in your face.  

 Another little one for when you don’t agree is I bet we can agree on three things. If the circumstances are right, this can actually be a fun experiment to run. And you can present it as exactly that and experiment. Saying something like, okay, well, you know how I feel about that, but I also bet we’re not as far apart as we think. Let’s try to find three things. We do agree on. And just see what happens.  


Phrase Four 

Number four. When a conversation needs to happen. But it’s bigger than the moment, or you’re not sure how things might go, but you’re hearing and seeing green lights and you want to introduce the conversation. You could use something like I want us to talk, even though we might not get things resolved right now. This statement says [00:07:30] we’re not going to be here for an hour. I’m not even trying to come up with the final answer. I just want to talk. The statement can be like a pressure valve release. And you could even preface it with, I only have about five minutes and I’d like to talk, even though we probably won’t resolve this right now.  

 Pro tip. This works great with spouses and partners. If there’s something that needs to get discussed. And you’re having a hard time landing on the moment to bring it up.  

 Hey, did you know Hope Dream Community is a nonprofit organization and we are so happy to provide financial scholarships to over a quarter of the parents who use our services. We have our first ever giving campaign happening right now, and if you’re a podcast listener and you’ve benefited from the content here, we would love it if you’d help us keep this as a free resource for parents. 

We’re all about action and Hope Stream community. And over 84% of our members say they have noticed an improvement in their relationship with their child since joining. And over 69% believe their child has accepted help in one form or another as a result of their experience with us. So we know lives are being changed, and we wanna be able to help even more parents. 

If you’re able to give to our Year of Hope campaign, please go to Hope Stream community.org/donate to learn more. Thank you. Now back to the show. 


Phrase Five 

Number five for the times when you’re surprised or stunned, or truly have no words, [00:09:00] which with our kids. Can happen often. Here are a few words that actually can be used as complete sentences. Oh, Hmm. Wow. And say more about that.  

 These give you time to compose yourself. Or to think of an open-ended question. If the conversation needs to continue. You don’t need to elaborate. Just use a thoughtful tone of voice. Take a few deep breaths. And close your mouth. It’s kind of magical.  


Phrase Six 

Number six. When they are not listening to your side of things. There are times when your perspective is being shot down and you don’t feel like the other person is listening. You know, they’re fully invested on their side and you still would like to make sure that they hear you. In those cases, you can use a statement. Like I hear that’s important to you and asking you to consider my perspective as well. You may be noticing a trend here. Of asking permission. Being respectful about not just assuming the other person wants to hear your side. Using words and phrases that show them you’re open to considering a range of ideas. Or options keeps the playing field a little more level.  


Phrase Seven 

Number seven. When things are getting too serious. Sometimes you just need a quick minute with someone or you’re open to conversation, but you don’t want it to end up [00:10:30] in super serious mode. This is a great way to turn a yellow light green, which will make sense to you. If you’re learning the invitation to change and Kraft approaches. So you can say something that gets your point across, but also ends on a lighter note. Like. I’m happy to talk about it. As long as we can talk while we’re driving to get ice cream. Or I really appreciate you being willing to talk about this. I would love to do it while we’re walking the dog.  


Phrase Eight 

Number eight. When they are overwhelmed and not well-regulated in their conversation. There are times when our kids especially, will be in overwhelm mode. They can’t articulate their points, they’re oversharing or just rambling and not making a whole lot of sense. You want to offer to help without sounding like you’re trying to solve their whole life. Breaking it down with a statement, like tell me one little thing I can do to help right now is a good option. Another great option in this case is. What’s one thing that would feel supportive to you right now. It might take them a minute to answer, but these questions, get them thinking. In a more solution oriented way rather than just ranting and raving.  

Phrase Nine 

 Number nine. When you did something that didn’t work out. Sometimes you do something. And later you realized that wasn’t necessarily the right or best thing. . However what’s done is done. And the other person may still be waving this misstep in your [00:12:00] face. Kids are especially good at this. And they’re especially good at finding things that we have done wrong. One option in this case is just state the truth. Something like I did that because that was the information I had at the time. Now there’s new information. And then work to move on instead of getting sucked into a spiral. Rehashing things that are over.  


Phrase Ten 

And finally, when you need, or want to tell someone about how their actions or words impacted you. And you would like them to change that in the future. There’s a magical phrase you can use that often gets really good results. There’s no guarantee. Of course. But if you use this, you’re setting yourself up for the best possible interaction. There’s a few components, which are, I feel. When you. Because therefore. This phrasing keeps the conversation about you. It doesn’t start out with, you always do this, or you never do that. Or you did X, Y, Z, again. Here’s an example of how this might sound in a real conversation.  

 I feel anxious when you stay out all night without touching base. Because I don’t know if you’re safe or not, therefore, and you may want to use a different word. I’d like you to text me at night. If you’re not going to be coming home. Ideally, you’ll follow this up with something like, is that something you’re willing to agree to or another statement that confirms that they heard you. And are willing to honor your request.  



[00:13:30] Now. I know some of these seem super simple. And for the purpose of a podcast episode, they are a bit simplistic.  

 However you would be surprised at how effective these can be. Or your own adaptation of them. If you actually try them and use the tone of voice that says, I care, I want to engage with you. Let’s see if we can come to an agreement on this. Because honestly, isn’t that what you truly want. It’s worth taking a few moments to craft your words intentionally. So they don’t put your child or the other person on the defensive. So they don’t beat around the Bush. So the. The respectful and let the other person know you care and you’re willing to engage with them, not just talk at them.  

Okay for a quick review. And remember you can grab the PDF that has all of these on it for quick reference. If you go to the show notes at Brenda’s ane.com/podcast, and look for episode 180 2. The phrases I mentioned here are I feel something it’s weird or I’ve noticed you’re a little off lately. I just want to talk about it. Would now be okay.  

 I can do better. I bet we can agree on three things. I want us to talk, even though things might not get resolved. Oh, Hmm. Wow. And say more about that.  

 I hear that’s important to you. I’m asking you to consider my [00:15:00] perspective as well.  

I’m happy to talk about it. As long as we talk while we drive to get ice cream. Or I really appreciate you being willing to talk about this. I’d love to do it while we’re walking the dog.  

 Tell me one little thing I can do to help right now. What’s one thing that would feel supportive to you right now. I did that because that’s the information I had at the time. Now there’s new information. And I feel. When you, because therefore.  

I hope you’ll try these. Make it an experiment of your own. And try to use one of these in the next day or two. It doesn’t even have to be with your child. Try it with a coworker or another family member or a friend and see what the response is. It’s kind of fun when you’re being strategic with your language. To see how it can impact a conversation. 

 I’d love to ask you to do one quick thing before we sign off, and that is if you enjoy this podcast, if you would go into your podcast player, whether that’s in Apple or Spotify, or Audible or Google, and just tap the Stars to rate it. That allows other people to see that people are listening and engaged in the podcast. 

And you’ll be helping another parent who is in a difficult time to find the podcast. So if you’re in Apple in particular, you’re gonna go to the main page of Hope Stream and then just scroll down and you’ll see the stars. And it also gives you an option to write a [00:16:30] little review. So if you do listen and enjoy it and get something out of it, that would mean the world to me. 

That is it for today. If you’d like to get a transcript for the show, there’s always a transcript at the show notes page, which is at brenda zane.com/podcast.  

Free E-Book 

And if you haven’t downloaded my free ebook yet, I’d invite you to do that. It’s called hindsight. Three things I Wish I knew when my Son was misusing drugs. It’ll give you some really good insight into why your child might be doing the things that they’re doing, and there’s some really great tips of things that I learned along the way that I so wish I would have known. 

It’ll also give you great ideas on how you can navigate this in a healthier way to preserve yourself, your sanity and your wellbeing, which we all need. So that is at brenda zane.com/hindsight. As always, thank you so much for listening. Thank you for putting in the time and the work and the effort and energy into getting your family into a healthier place, and especially for your child, and I cannot wait to meet you right back here next week. 

, , , ,

the parent’s gathering place

Join us after
the episodes

Hopestream Community is a private online destination where parents find resources, education and personal connections when their child struggles with substance misuse, addiction, and mental health challenges. We teach skills that help improve communication and rebuild broken relationships, while empowering you to motivate your child to adopt or maintain healthier choices.

Learn more and join us >