Healthy communication is the lifeblood of the family. It is the glue that holds families together. It is the grease that keeps the family wheel running smoothly.
Communication is the ability to share emotions, feelings, desires, and information. But not all communication is healthy communication. Just because there is a lot of talking going on in your family does not mean that it is healthy communication.
The difference between communication and healthy communication is the ability to communicate those emotions, feelings, desires and information without being hateful or giving negative responses.
For some of you, healthy communication comes naturally. But many folks were raised in homes where good communication skills were not prioritized. For them, the struggle to express emotions, thoughts, and information without being negative, sarcastic or passive-aggressive is a daily battle that they frequently lose.
If you grew up in a home where poor communication skills were not modeled, it most likely has affected your adult relationships. You may alienate others or struggle to maintain long-term relationships. Healthy communication is not only essential to having a healthy, happy family NOW, it is an important skill for your children to learn to help them as they grow up, become adults, and begin their own families.
Set the foundation now for healthy communication with these 10 commandments:
Be an Active Listener.
Give frequent eye contact, don’t multi-task, give total attention, observe body language, and listen for feelings. Don’t just listen halfheartedly, while inwardly reloading.
Let Them Finish.
When they are sharing thoughts, don’t interrupt because you are in a hurry to express your own opinions. This communicates that your words are more important that theirs.
Ask reflective questions (what I hear you saying is…is that correct?) This shows that you’ve been paying attention to their words.
Ask questions that encourage them to express opinions and then don’t critique or judge their answers.
Avoid interrogative questions. This does not help them open up, and could cause them to shut down even more.
Filter Your Responses.
When a topic is sensitive, be especially careful of your responses. For instance, your child may be concerned about their weight, friendships, grades, or athletic performance. Choose words that will encourage, build up and challenge, not shame or demean.
Let them know that you hear and understand by repeating back in detail what they are saying or asking, even if you don’t think that their request is a good idea. I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think that’s the best idea and here’s why…OR…I can see how you’d think that would be fun, but I have a different opinion I’d like to share.
Address, Don’t Attack.
Always speak to the problem you are discussing and do not attack the person. Treat your child respectfully as you would like to be treated.
Respond instead of React.
Give yourself a breather if you need to, but do not react to your child or discipline in anger. Think through what it is you really want your child to know and learn and then respond accordingly. Most likely, what you say as a reaction and what you say when you’ve had time to think about it are going to be two different things.
Good conversations do not always happen on demand. Allow for space for those moments to sprout. Whether it’s an afternoon of fishing, shopping, playing games or taking a hike–when you create the space for open communication, it is more likely to eventually happen.
Focus on Tone and Delivery.
How you say it and when you say it can determine if your words are going to be received. Don’t yell departing jabs to your kids as they are running out the door to catch the school bus. When you discipline, don’t use angry or sarcastic tones. Unhealthy tones and delivery can drown out anything worthwhile that you may be trying to say.
Don’t Argue With Your Kids.
Not one parent has ever truly won an argument with a child. And by winning, I mean that they’ve convinced the child they are wrong and that child agrees to always cooperate in the future with a positive and willing attitude.
When you lecture or argue, it only takes about 5 seconds for your child to completely turn down the volume on you and hear nothing that you are saying. Talking too much or arguing about a situation leads a child to practice parent deafness.
For strategies on how to communicate with your child without arguing, schedule a free call here.
What Stops You From Healthy Communication?
Stress and out-of-control emotions contribute to unhealthy communication. But perhaps one of the largest barriers is the lack of understanding we extend to our kids. One of the phrases we stressed in our home with our children was “Seek to Understand.” When we take the time to understand what the other person is saying and feeling, we are more likely to respond in a way that nurtures healthy communication.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can develop healthy communication in your family, schedule a free call here.