Good communication in any home is the glue that holds the family together. It is the grease that will keep family members moving in sync. It is the foundation that will help your family weather the storms.
Conversely, there are habits and behaviors that will shut healthy communication down quickly. If you are wondering why your communication with a spouse or with your kids seems to be at a standstill or like you are talking to yourself, check to see if one of these is killing your communication before it even has a chance to get started.
Fear will shut mouths and hearts very quickly. If someone is afraid of being ridiculed, rejected or threatened, they will not open up. If you are using fear in the form of physical or emotional threats, or if you are belittling, making fun of or putting a person down, you may feel like you’ve got some sort of control or power, but you are actually slamming the door on a healthy relationship.
Lack of Honesty
In order to “protect” themselves, people often put on masks and play roles. Perhaps you’ve taken on one of these roles:
The John Wayne role: I’m a tough guy, I don’t need all this touchy feely communication stuff.
The Messiah role: I’m the only one who can fix this situation; it’s all up to me because you are not helping at all. In fact, it’s always up to me!
The I’m Fine role: I’m okay, really. Nothing to worry about. I’ve got everything under control.
The Martyr role: SIGH. I will take care of this, it’s okay you go ahead and have fun.
Perhaps you can think of other masks that your family members wear. Masks are dishonest because they cover up what is really going on in your mind and heart. If they are worn while communicating, then your conversation will just be words, not true connection.
Lack of Listening
You can have lots of people in your home and still feel lonely. You can look directly at your spouse or child and never hear a word they say. Is there a lot of talking going on in your home, but very little listening?
When you are in a conversation, focus on their words, not on what you are going to say when they take a breath. Think about what they are saying, why they might be saying it, and what they are feeling as they say it. This is not an argument to win, it is a conflict to resolve. This is not a chance to show up the other person, it is an opportunity to learn more about who they are and why they think what they do.
Nothing escalates a conflict more than a lack of self-control. As voices rise and as tempers flare, a conflict shifts from a difference of opinion to a full-blown fight. Explosions of anger DO NOT resolve conflict. They may shut the other person up and you may think you’ve made your point, but what you’ve actually done is encouraged the other party to explode back and/or shut down emotionally altogether. Communication killer for sure.
Pouting or Sulking
You may not raise your voice in anger, but if you have a habit of pouting or sulking, you are doing just as much harm as you would if you exploded. In fact, pouting is actually a form of uncontrolled anger. It is also bad for your health and is responsible for high blood pressure, ulcers, and other toxins in the body.
I was not a yeller and rarely did I explode, but I did a pretty good job of sulking when my husband or kids would make me mad. Nothing got resolved when I pouted because even if I wasn’t yelling, I was still angry and I was still shutting down emotionally. Resolutions only came when I quit pouting and engaged in honest and calm communication.
Good communication does not come naturally for most of us. It takes practice and effort. Be intentional about teaching your family good communication skills and not letting the communication killers win in your home.
If you’d like to learn more about good communication skills, I can help. Schedule a free consultation call here.