We were at brunch celebrating my friend’s third pregnancy when one of our group told us she was facing a challenging conversation later in the day. Turns out her nanny is not doing the job she was hired to, and our friend was going to talk to her about it that afternoon.
She was ready but she was dreading it. Like most women I know, she hates confrontation.
Luckily (or not) for her, I’m not “most women.” While I don’t relish confrontation, my belief that clear and explicit communication trumps just about everything in relationships has paved a way through many hard conversations in my life. And since I’m kind of bossy, I started to tell this woman what she should say.
Instead of telling me to mind my own business, she grabbed a pen and jotted down a script.
It got me thinking: why is it so hard for some of us to say what we mean and ask for what we want? Seriously. We are strong, formidable women (anyone who has carried and birthed a child or adopted a child or otherwise put themselves second behind a child falls into this category, IMO). We know right from wrong. We follow the rules. We do our best.
What is it about this cocktail of characteristics that keeps so many of us from speaking our minds, especially when it comes to our kids’ caregivers? Obviously there’s the concern that if we piss off the nanny, our kids might suffer for it (one reason I’m a big fan of institutional daycares and preschools). But usually it’s more that we don’t want to upset anyone.
If someone is not taking care of your kids how you want them to—how you pay them to—then you are perfectly right to address it. Here’s how to do so without suffering an anxiety attack in advance:
1. Lay out the conversation
“I’ve got some concerns about your role as our nanny/babysitter and I’d like to address them with you.”
2. Let her know she’s not getting fired (unless she is)
“I’m discussing this with you because I’d like to help you remedy the situation. I appreciate all you do, and I’m confident these issues can be resolved relatively painlessly.”
3. Control the conversation
“I’d like to go through my main points first, and then I’m interested to hear your perspective.”
4. DO. NOT. APOLOGIZE.
5. Know what you want to get out of the conversation
(After going through your list of concerns) “Now that I’ve shared this with you I’d like to hear your perspective and then we can talk about how to improve the situation.”
6. Have several solutions in mind
7. Have clear bench marks, next steps
“I’m glad we’re on the same page and that X, Y, and Z will not be repeated. We’ll have a check in two weeks from now to make sure things are improving and we’re both on the same page.”
There’s no guarantee the conversation will go your way, but chances are it will. My experience is that being polite and straight with people almost always engenders a positive response. And if it doesn’t, or if your gut tells you not to trust this caregiver, listen to it.