Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

New Year, Same Family

Dear Ilana and Jess: The new year always starts with big ideas and resolutions, but my family can never seem to follow through. One of our goals as a family is to reduce conflict in the new year, but we aren’t sure how to go about it. Any suggestions? - Freida

Dear Freida: Happy New Year! Your problem is a common one, and we’ve talked about goal-setting plenty of times. Now, let’s tackle yours.

First, keep in mind that this goal, like all others, needs to be clearly outlined. Figure out as a family how you define conflict. Some conflict is healthy and necessary; make sure you’re not conflating disagreement for disarray. Once you’ve defined conflict, you can make a concrete plan to reduce it.

Create rules of engagement. Make sure to fight fair by setting and keeping boundaries. A good one that we always recommend is no yelling or screaming; if you feel yourself becoming that heated, take a break and try the conversation again in 10 minutes. Whatever rules you decide on, they should make sense for your family and help to increase respect between all members.

Learn how to say, “I don’t understand where you’re coming from.” The best way to decrease conflict is to increase empathy. Before you jump in with the hot take, try to understand where the other party is coming from. If you can’t, that’s a problem. Before you proceed, ask to hear their thought process. And, when they explain it to you…

Be willing to listen. You don’t have to agree to understand. When someone is sharing a perspective, pay attention to how they drew their conclusions. Remember that every conversation is an interaction of personalities, mood, and past experiences; there are a lot of reasons we are the way we are. Keep them all in mind when you try to understand why someone thinks the way they do.

Say This: “I genuinely don’t understand what makes you say/think that. Could you please explain it a little more?”

Not That: “Are you serious?!”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: