One of the best ways to connect with another person is by injecting a positive assumption into a question or suggestion. When used in conversation, this communication tool makes it much more likely for your child to respond in a way that allows you to understand how your child thinks.

To have a positive assumption about something is to assume that something is possible or that it will happen. From his or her response, you are given insight into the values, perceptions, and decision-making processes your child engages in. When he or she does it, be sure not to judge or criticize or even react, but learn to appreciate that your child has just given you an invitation to see the inner workings of his or her thought process.

One father was telling me that he found it very hard to engage his young teenager because all he ever gets is a flat “OK” in response. So I asked, “What then did you do?” “Oh, then I tried to ask questions like, ‘Would you like to tell me how your day has been?’ or ‘How’s school?’ and so on,” said the father. All his well-intentioned questions yielded the same response — blank looks, short answers and silence. Frustrated and disappointed, he asked, “Do you get real answers when you ask a question?”

I suggested that he could try injecting positive assumptions in his questions or suggestions. For example, “What was the best thing that happened at school today?” (This assumes that there were lots of good things that happened at school today); or “So what did you say that you think was encouraging to your friend? (This assumes that there were numerous positive things said in a reported conversation and you are merely trying to help him identify the most helpful ones).