Both my sons are in their 50s, still pursuing highly successful careers in IT.

But I’m still trying to communicate with them effectively, being aware of moments when a particular skill will work best for me — with my sons, my wife, my business partners, and friends.

During a recent conversation with my youngest son, I was very conscious of how I responded, and I was reminded of something important. Often, the best response is to not respond — to say nothing. I felt the urge to give advice, to debate, to give feedback; but instead, I said nothing.

It worked like a charm; it was the most effective thing I could have done.

The lesson: saying nothing is a powerful, underappreciated skill. Just listen. And if you feel you really must say something, ask an open-ended question. Instead of saying, “That doesn’t sound like a good idea,” say “What do you think will happen if you do that?” And you could follow up with “If that happens, how would you feel about that?” But let saying nothing be your lead.

In the heat of the moment, choose your battles. Sometimes refusing to engage is the smartest thing you can do.

Learn more about listening and asking open-ended questions in Chapters 4 and 5 of Connect with Your Kid. This book, along with Parents Coaching Parents, will help you strengthen the bond with your child.