People often hear about how relationships are destroyed by a lack of communication. When the honeymoon period ends and two people go from being romantic explorers to becoming partners in each other’s lives, the need for clear communication becomes more apparent – a couple that cannot express its problems and individual needs without turning to arguments and anger won’t last long.
That advice isn’t just useful in the survival of romantic relationships, though. Being able to properly communicate and compromise, discuss and explain remains vital at every stage of a family, from the foundation a couple lies, all the way to larger households with a grandma, grandpa, and the three kids.
Without communication, parents won’t be able to properly understand their kids, little stressors and strife will lead cracks, bursts of annoyance, unintentional slips of the tongue and escalated verbal warfare. Households can already become a little cramped under certain circumstances, any hostility will kill the collective mood of the home and can lead to very unhappy memories and deep emotional issues suppressed or otherwise.
Overcoming this (and potentially avoiding it) is as simple as learning how to communicate effectively. However, doing that will take some time and a little bit of practice. Here are a few tips for starting down the path of better and more effective communication at home.
Be Pragmatic and Reasonable
Pragmatism is the ability to be level-headed and practical – and, in a way, cold. It’s important for proper communication to be reasonable – do away with the aggression and the defensive statements, and focus simply on the truthful content of every intent and emotion. Questions need to be simple. Answers need to be simple. Everyone needs to be given their time to think, to answer, and to feel unjudged.
A good family discussion is an objective. It skews answers and hurts relationships if members of the family are pressured to answer in a certain way – by getting the truth out in the air without fear of emotional retaliation, everyone can focus first on identifying problems before fixing them. Once everyone has the chance to openly talk about what their point of view is in a difficult situation, then comes the time to talk about what should be done and how compromises should be met to make everyone comfortable.
It’s a tricky thing to do, but emphasizing pragmatism and truth-seeking is the best way to avoid emotional outbursts, unnecessary statements, and a hostile environment where nothing is effectively communicated, other than anger.
Change Your Perspective
A family can’t survive without basic empathy and understanding. If you’re not willing to hear someone out on their side of the story, your family ties will simply break down. No one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes – but sometimes, getting into someone else’s head and letting them explain their thoughts can help you better understand why things go the way they did, and more importantly, everyone can come out about assumptions and misunderstandings, and clear the air on questions usually left unanswered.
If communication is a problem in a household, then oftentimes decisions may be made without everyone’s consent simply because it’s so difficult to talk to one another. By being more forthcoming and open about opinions and thoughts, you can create a place at home for discussion, change, and learning. For example, if your teenage son did something foolish at school, then other than simply berating him, an effective approach is to figure out why he did it. Children and teens act out for a reason, and if they don’t want to tell you what that reason is, then there’s an even deeper problem at hand.
However, by pressing on and insisting on an open communication where every opinion is valued and considered instead of being judged or insulted, you as a parent can better understand your child, and help them better understand why you might be worried or disapprove of their behavior.
As mentioned earlier, it never helps to be aggressive or condescending in these types of talks. Be reasonable, straight and to-the-point. Communicate effectively without insulting your family member’s intelligence or accusing them of anything. The second these simple rules are broken – the second negativity enters the picture – everything will devolve.
There are a Time and Place for Anger
There is indeed such a thing as constructive anger. Anger has its purpose, and when conveyed properly, it can have its place in a conversation – alongside every other emotion. There’s a difference between communicating reasonably and being devoid of all relevant emotion. If you confront your child or your partner without properly conveying how you feel, you give a false impression that you don’t care, or you might come across as “annoyingly fake”. It’s painful, and even unhealthy to bottle up certain feelings.
When discussing your own feelings, be careful not to blow up verbally. Describe your thoughts. Describe your anger. Be colorful. But don’t channel it onto another person. Don’t insult, and don’t get aggressive. Don’t cut the other person off if you don’t like what they’re saying, or if you want them to get to their point – give them the time to express themselves, and as mentioned earlier, hear everyone out.
See a Professional Therapist
Not every family is level-headed enough to accept open communications and stick to the rules of reasonability and positivity. It takes time, practice, and sometimes the guidance of someone experienced and neutral to truly facilitate proper talks.
That’s where the experience of a professional therapist comes in. Someone trained and neutral to ensure everyone gets a voice, and frame the conversation in a way that helps everyone hear each other out and contemplate their words before expressing themselves purely emotionally or in a regrettable way.
Sometimes, it can be tough to convince everyone in the family that therapy is needed. There’s a natural inclination among families to want to sort out personal and private troubles without interference – but not every family can do that without hurting each other and making things worse. A heartfelt plea might be needed to get everyone on board, but it’s important that everyone understands why therapy is necessary, and the possible harm if arguments and fights continue to go on pointlessly.