Connecting through Positive Presupposition

By Wong Suen Kwong, Centre for Fathering

One of the best ways to connect with another person is by injecting a positive presupposition into a question or suggestion. This communication tool makes a conversation much more likely for your child to respond in a way that opens the way into understanding how your child thinks.

To have a positive presupposition about something is to assume that it is possible or that it will happen. From his or her response, you are given an insight as to the values, perception, 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 life.

One father was telling me that he found it very hard to engage his young teenager because he always gets the “OK” answer. 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 he could try injecting positive presuppositions in his questions or suggestions:

What was the best thing that happened at school today?
(This presupposes that there were lots of good things that happened at school today).

… so what did you say that you think was encouraging to your friend?
(This presupposes that there were numerous positive things said in a reported conversation and you are trying to help him identify the most helpful ones).

Reflection pointer for fathers to connect:
Think about the most recent conversation you have had with your kid. Are you interested to know what is going on in your child: in what he/she thinks and feels or are you unconsciously trouble-shooting. If you are doing the latter, you can curtail it by injecting positive presuppositions in your questions and conversations.

Action pointers for fathers to connect:
Practice asking open-ended questions with embedded positive presuppositions and see how your child reveals his inner world to you. Be affirming and encouraging regardless of what your child says and your bond would strengthen as a result.

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