Building a strong family through communication

Sunday, 7 February 2016 - 1:03pm

Good communication is a key ingredient in maintaining a strong family. Our friends at Lifespan Counselling have outlined below a guide to explaining the different communication styles and strategies to more effectively communicate in our family relationships.

Responsibilities in the family
Everyone in the family has responsibilities, something for which they are accountable.

Parents responsibilities:
A parent is responsible to provide a child's basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, love, health care, safety, and education. They are also there to teach a child what behaviour is acceptable in the family and in society.

Children’s responsibilities:
In return, a child in the family is responsible to follow rules and showing respect for all family members.

Communication and family functioning
Effective communication is an important characteristic of a strong and healthy family. It is the building block of positive relationships and allows family members to express their needs, wants, and concerns to each other. Communication also allows family members to express their differences as well as their love for each other and in doing so family members are more able to resolve difficulties and problems.

What is communication?
Communication is the process of sharing information, thoughts, ideas, or feelings with other people. It uses sounds, gestures, words, and body movements when interacting. Poor communication is both a lack of communicating and poor quality communication (put-downs, negative messages).

Types of communication

Passive communication
Someone with a passive communication style is typically compliant and submissive. They put themselves down and praise others. They will avoid eye contact, give in to others and are self-critical. They often believe that the other person's feelings and opinions are more important than their own.

Aggressive communication
Aggressive communicators are often sarcastic and harsh. They 'know-it-all' and will talk over others and upset others without care. They feel angry and resentful are disrespectful of others and always have to be right. There is a belief that they are entitled to have things done their way.

Assertive communication
When you use assertive communication you clearly and calmly express what you want and are respectful of yourself and others. Assertive communicators are warm, welcoming, friendly, relaxed and open. They will have good and fair relationships with others and are happy to negotiate and compromise.

What we say:
Verbal communication is the use of sounds and words to express yourself. It encompasses: speaking; face to face communicating; writing; texting and active listening.

How we say it:
Often it is not what we say, but how we say it. This is where non-verbal communication can come in to play with the use of: body-language, movements and posture; gestures; facial expressions; touch; displays of emotion and talking distance.

Behaviours that hinder good communication

This involves targeting someone’s personality or character instead of the behaviour that is the problem. Example statements of this behaviour are: “You always do this!” or, “It’s because you’re lazy”. Criticism often begins with complaining. It is harmful when it becomes the focus of your communication or you can’t let go of past problems.

A means of defence from criticism. It is often used when you feel like the other person is attacking you personally. Both people will ultimately feel victimised and neither are willing to take responsibility. Someone who is behaving defensively will typically deny responsibility and make excuses.

The person who stonewalls will move from poor communication to completely shutting down. They will convey a message of disapproval, resistance, and lack of respect. This behaviour can be very upsetting for the person who is speaking.

Tips to improve communication

  • Hold family meetings – before you need them!!
  • Discuss family rules and important issues. Learn to make plans together.
  • Every family member has a voice.
  • Respect each other.
  • Be honest about how you feel, and work out a solution.
  • Don’t criticise, become defensive, or stonewall.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Say what you want, not what you don’t want: Instead of “don’t slam the door!” say “close the door quietly”
  • Take responsibility, don’t lay blame.
  • Describe how the other person’s behaviour makes you feel: “when you raise your voice it makes me feel scared, I would like you to speak softly”
  • Use “I” statements: “I would like you to…”

So let’s review...

Communication is crucial for a strong, healthy family.
Every family member has the right to be heard.
Don’t be passive or aggressive – be ASSERTIVE!
Pay attention to what you say (verbal) and what you do with your body (non-verbal).
Improving communication is hard work…but worth it!

Remember - Families that communicate stay connected