By Jim Davis
I originally wrote this with teens in mind, but it really applies to everyone. It's a good skill to be able to refer to in an interview. It's an even better one to be able to use in your job, as well as in all aspects of your life.
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Teens can be super-sensitive about criticism. The fact that you are going to need to give them criticism makes this a particularly difficult issue. Learning how to take criticism and to use it constructively is a major part of growing into a responsible adult. Even when the criticism is not justified.
You are probably never going to intentionally give unjustified criticism, at least not from your perspective, but don't expect your teen to see it that way. Parents tend to react in one of two ways, usually. The first is to argue, with no decision being made. This often results in the parent giving in just to stop the argument. The second is to exert authority and force "agreement." This may bring about the result that the parent wants, but it may also do lasting damage to the relationship. A third method that can be much more productive is to discuss the issue as if there is at least a possibility that you are wrong.
In my opinion, this third method offers much more than the opportunity to convince your teen that you are right. It also provides you with the opportunity to back down "gracefully" if you (gasp) realize that you were wrong. In addition, whether your teen decides that you are right, you realize that you are wrong, or you both just "agree to disagree," you are helping your "child" to become an adult. And, agreeing to disagree does not necessarily mean that you reach an impasse. It may result in you exerting your authority and making a "ruling," but even that can help build a better relationship between you both. I made more than my share of mistakes in raising my kids, but one success I had demonstrates this.
My older son, Ralph, wanted to do something (neither of us can remember what it was now) that I didn't think was appropriate. We talked about it for some time, but it was obvious that neither of us was going to change his mind. So, I simply said, "I know you think you are right about this. But I don't, and I have an obligation to you that keeps me from giving in this time. As time goes on, we may find out that I was wrong. If that happens, I'll tell you I was wrong. I'll apologize. And, I'll do anything I can to make it up to you. But, right now, I have to do what I believe is the right thing."
He still didn't like my decision, but he decided that he could accept it.
A funny thing about this story is that neither of us can remember what the disagreement was about or who ultimately was right. We do remember the conversation we had, though, and we both learned from it.