Managing difficult conversations after transplant

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Father and son talking

Relationships with people in your family change over time. For instance, as you get older, you may find that you have more disagreements with your parents.

Relationships with friends often change as you develop new and sometimes very different interests. This is normal, but sometimes these relationship changes can be challenging and stressful!

Good communication skills can help improve your relationship with anyone you interact with, including your parents, friends, teachers, healthcare team and employers. They can help you manage difficult conversations and deal with any nosy questions and comments about your transplant.

Communication tips

Here are some tips for effective communication.

Think about timing and location

If you want to talk with someone about an issue that could lead to a disagreement, plan what you will say ahead of time. Think about when and where you could have a discussion when you are both calm and won’t be interrupted.

For instance, don’t try to talk with your parents about a curfew when you’re about to leave your home or just after you have had a big fight about how late you returned.

Think about how you can tell the person you want to talk to them

You’re more likely to get a good response if you say to someone, “I’ve been thinking about _______ (whatever you want to discuss) and I’m wondering if we could talk about it. When do you think you might have some time to talk?”

Listen before talking

If you want to really discuss something properly, then, after you open the discussion, try to listen to the other person’s point of view first and really try to understand why they hold that view.

Let’s go back to the example of a curfew.

  1. Say you think your curfew should be later than the time that your parents make you come home.
  2. If you have already followed the suggestions above, the next step is to say something like, “I’m wondering what you think about when you decide on the curfew time. Can you help me understand how you choose a time?” Don’t say this sarcastically or in anger, and really be prepared to listen to what your parents say.
  3. Ask your parents to confirm what they have said so that it’s clear to you. For example, say, “So I think you’re saying that it’s my safety that really worries you. Is that right?”
  4. Once your parents explain their choices to you and you really feel you understand where they’re coming from, tell them your point of view, introducing it neutrally and with respect. You will get a better reaction if you say something like, “I think I understand why you chose 9 pm as a curfew time for me. I see things a bit differently. What I’m thinking about is...” and then calmly state your thoughts on the matter.

Stay calm!

Sometimes people won’t hear you out after you listen to them or they’ll refuse to engage in a discussion. If you get upset or angry, you will only ruin your chances of having a productive discussion. Instead, do your best to stay calm and respectful – even if you don’t feel like it.

Try a neutral ending such as “I guess I need to think about this some more. I appreciate that you took the time to talk with me, and I’m hoping we can talk about this again later.” Then walk away, calm down and talk to someone you trust about other ways you can engage the person in a productive discussion.

Be prepared to compromise and think of some ideas ahead of time

If, for example, you don’t want to take a treatment that your doctor is prescribing, go through the steps listed above. Once you’ve heard and understood each other’s concerns, ask for help in finding a solution that will work for you both. For instance, you could both agree that you will start a medicine only when your bloodwork gets to a certain point or that you will try the medicine for a month and then review your symptoms to see if you can stop taking it.

Going back to the curfew example, if you want it to be an hour later, you could ask to stay out 15 minutes later for two weeks. Then you could meet with your parents to see if you could stay out another 15 minutes from then on once you’ve proven that you are responsible and can stay safe.​

Teen girl in school with other kids in background

Dealing with nosy questions and comments

Dealing with questions can be stressful. Sometimes people might ask you questions or make comments about your transplant and you might not be sure how to respond. People might ask questions or say things because they’re genuinely curious or concerned or because they’re simply nosy.

You might find that sometimes you have lots of patience to explain things and answer questions, but other times you just wish the person would leave you alone!

Thinking before answering

If you find yourself not knowing how to respond to a person’s comment, think about why they’re talking with you and how much energy you have. Then you will likely be able to come up with an appropriate response.

So, for example, if someone asks you why you wear a Medic Alert bracelet and you think they only want to gossip about you, you could say “I’d prefer not to talk about it.” If someone asks about your bracelet and you believe they’re genuinely interested or are worried about you, you could say “I wear it because of the medicine I take for my transplant.”

Preparing some standard answers

Most people find it good to prepare a couple of comments or answers that can apply to many situations.

  • A statement such as, “I don’t really feel like talking about that now. Could we talk later?” gives you some time to think about how to respond.
  • A comment that distracts the other person, such as, “I heard we’re going to get a surprise math quiz today - did you hear that too?”, can help change the topic and also give you some thinking time.

Some teens like having some smart answers to hand when they feel they are being asked questions that they don’t want to answer. If you would like to have some at the ready, ask an older brother or sister, or a trusted friend, to help you come up with some of your own.

Last updated: November 30th 2017