We all have relationships we need to navigate. Whether it’s a parent, a partner, a friend, or coworker, there will be times of discontent. How we work through those times determines our ability to continue in that relationship.

Open adoption is no exception. If anything, it’s more difficult because there is so much more at stake. Looking through different forums of how to maneuver your way through a challenging time in different relationships, I found my way to StrongerMarriage.org. That website had a wonderful list to help approach another person, whom you love deeply, about a situation that you’re unhappy with. I’ve taken the ones that fit with adoption and personalized them to these relationships.

1. Be specific. You must be specific when you tell either the birth family or adoptive family about a complaint you have. Don’t just complain to complain. You must ask for a reasonable change, and make yourself clear if you expect them to understand what you’re asking.

2. Restrict yourself to one complaint at a time. Otherwise you might hit or miss some points, unintentionally sidestepping the main problem.

3. Try to not be biased to yourself. Be open to your own feelings, and equally open to either the birth or adoptive family (whomever you are speaking to). Be open to compromising. And remember: the other party’s view of the situation may be just as real as yours, even though you have differing opinions.

4. Never assume that you know what they’re thinking until you have discussed the challenge. Don’t assume or pretend to know how they will react. None of us can read minds, so it’s important to ask.

5. Do not overburden the other person with grievances. Doing that will bring feelings of hopelessness. They may also think that you have not thought through what really troubles you and you’re simply holding in complaints instead of communicating.

6. Meditate. Take time to consider your thoughts and feelings before talking with the birth or adoptive family. Your reactions make what you’re saying more significant. Don’t be afraid to take a minute and think.

Remember: “There is never a single winner in a discussion. Both of you either win more understanding, or lose it.”