“Real communication is meaning transferred from one mind to another – not simply the exchange of words.”
You have probably seen the cell phone commercials portraying what happens a phone call is dropped at the precise time the caller has shared some monumental life changing experience and is waiting for approval or returned excitement, only to be left holding a ‘dead phone.’
What happens next? The caller starts to assume what the other person is thinking and feeling. Always, they assume incorrectly that the other person does not share their enthusiasm for the situation or their idea.
What happens when you assume what your child is thinking or feeling because you have “dropped” communication?
I want to share with you some proven strategies that can help you to have effective communication with your family.
When you use effective communication, you reserve judgment. How many of you have been involved in a dialogue only to realize that you are formulating your response as the person is talking? We are always interpreting what is being said, and judging everything that is being said. That hinders true communication.
I also encourage you to pay attention to body language when you are communicating, both yours and theirs. It has been said that 55 percent of all communication is done through body language. Have you ever noticed that when the words and the person’s body language don’t match we tend to believe the body language? That little voice inside you says: “Something doesn’t add up here.”
Use your ‘I’ statements. Effective communication cannot happen when someone feels defensive or backed into a corner.
How do the following statements make you feel?
“You never do what you say you will do; you are lazy and refuse to pull your weight. You are never home on time and leave me here to do all the housework. You take me for granted.”
If this was being said to you, chances are you would have shut down and stopped listening or you are so angry that you have stopped listening, or you have heard this so often that you never started to listen! What if the sender of this message had said this instead?
“I feel frustrated when you don’t follow through on your promises. I sometimes feel like I am the only one pulling my weight. When you don’t come home on time, I worry and don’t feel validated that I am important to you. I love you, but sometimes I need more from you, do you think we could talk about this?”
What would your response be now? I am guessing, though you may not agree with what was said, you would be willing to discuss this situation in an attempt to clear the air and resume the relationship.
This leads into one of the foundational skills required in effective communication. That is, good listening skills. Too often, we charge off to “fix” the problem when we have missed some of these cues because we did not listen. As a listener, you must also empathize with the other person. Empathy is not agreement, but it acknowledges that there is some reason that this person is sharing with you. It shows that you are capable of understanding the depth of emotion they are sharing. When you can do this, you are able to validate the person’s position. Sometimes they just need to know that their comments are being heard, and considered, regardless of whether you can “fix” their issue.
And finally, good listeners are willing to suspend their judgments. This allows you to hear all that is being said honestly. I once heard someone say that feelings have no right or wrong to them. They are just feelings. It is how you act upon these feelings that make a difference. This may be the most difficult step for a good listener, that of not assigning a “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong” to the statements being shared.
People only care what you think if they think you care! If you are constantly giving advice, children will see your statements as judgments not as caring remarks. Use your times of advice sparingly and preferably when requested, especially as they get older.
Thanks for listening!
by Debbie Elder