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Family Communication

The Secret to Communicating Effectively with Your Family Members and How It Can Transform Your Relationships

Communication is the foundation of all relationships. It is through communication that we express our thoughts, feelings, and connection to one another. Developing strong communication skills is essential for successful relationships, whether it’s a parent-child, spouse-spouse, or sibling-sibling relationship.

However, many of us struggle with communicating effectively with our family members. We fall into negative patterns of relating, such as blaming, criticizing, lecturing, punishing, dictating, or ignoring. These patterns can escalate conflicts and damage trust and intimacy.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen or experienced is impatience with family members. Frankly, if we displayed this impatience at work, it would probably result in termination.

So here’s a thought: What if we spoke to our spouse or treated them the way we speak to or treat our colleagues at work or a boss? Or if this resonates more with you, what if we treated them the way we treat a respected elder (grandparent, minister, etc.)?

When we speak to our spouse the way we speak to a boss or respected elder, we become more patient and attentive listeners. We are respectful and polite and never resort to harsh words or tones.

What other behaviors do we exhibit at work that could help with family dynamics? At work, we are encouraged to show appreciation, support, and encouragement and acknowledge our co-workers’ contributions and achievements.

So why do we forget to do that at home? Don’t the people we love the most deserve that same kind of consideration?

What would happen in our relationships with our spouse and other family members if we were more mindful of their feelings and needs?”

Well, first off you would avoid unnecessary conflicts or arguments. And if you are like me and most people, we don’t enjoy conflict. It makes people anxious and unhappy and builds resentment.

By speaking to our spouse the way we would speak to a boss or respected elder, we would show them that we value them and care for them, and strengthen our bond and trust with them.

So the big question was how can we communicate better with our family members and transform our relationships?

The first tip is to talk to your family members like you would a boss or respected elder.

So take a moment to think about who comes to mind when you think of this mindset trick?

I started doing this back in 2008 and at the time I had a boss that I absolutely loved. He was a true mentor and supporter of my personal and professional development. He is the person I envision when I need to have a difficult conversation and it still works to this day.

I have some other tips that I would like to share and they come from some social research I did also back in 2008.

In 2008, I was working as a senior consultant for an accounting and consulting firm and was hired by the government of PEI to help with a social marketing campaign that ended up being called Take 30 for the Family. We conducted focus groups across the province to find out what helped bond families.

The campaign was designed to provide parents with information, activity ideas, and tools to promote positive parenting and healthy brain development during a child’s critical early years. The campaign also aimed to increase the number of PEI employers who developed and instituted family friendly work policies. As part of the focus group, we asked participants to share their own family stories about how they spent time growing and learning together. The campaign was called “Take 30 for the Family” and here are a few tips that we gathered from the research and the participants:

  1. Dine together and schedule family time regularly. One of the simplest ways to improve family communication is to spend more time together. Eating meals together, doing activities together, and sharing your interests can create opportunities for meaningful conversations and bonding. Research shows that families who eat together regularly have better communication, academic performance, mental health, and nutrition.
    • My kids are young adults now but growing up I had three rules, be respectful, take your schoolwork seriously and supper is at the table as a family.
  2. Talk in the car or during other casual moments. Sometimes the best conversations happen when you are not expecting them. Talking in the car or during other casual moments can be a great way to communicate with your family members. These moments can be less stressful and more relaxed than formal discussions. They can also allow you to talk about topics that may not come up otherwise. Research shows that casual conversations can enhance closeness, trust, and support. When my kids were young this was at bedtime.  Something about the safety of being cuddled in your bed at night winding down that gets kids to open up…. As they got older this transferred to the car.
  3. Appreciate your family and be kind. Another way to enhance family communication is to express your gratitude and love for your family members. Let them know that you appreciate them and what they do for you. Be kind and respectful in your words and actions. Celebrate achievements and good news together. Research shows that gratitude and kindness can boost happiness, well-being, and relationship satisfaction.  As I have gotten older and working as a coach, I have come to appreciate more the power of celebrating our successes. So important.
  4. Listen intently and show empathy. Listening is a vital skill for effective communication. Listening means paying attention to what the other person is saying, both verbally and non-verbally. It also means showing empathy and respect for their feelings and perspective. To listen well, you need to avoid distractions, make eye contact, nod, ask questions, paraphrase, and reflect feelings. Research shows that listening can reduce stress, increase understanding, and improve problem-solving.
  5. Ask for their preferences and priorities. Another way to communicate better with your family members is to ask for their preferences and priorities. This can help you understand what matters to them and what they need from you. It can also help you involve them in decision making and planning. Asking for their preferences and priorities can show that you respect their opinions and value their input. Research shows that involving family members in decision making can increase satisfaction, cooperation, and commitment.  Mealtime choices.. I still have friends that say when I was a kid I ate what was in front of me or I starved and that is how it should be now today…. But I challenge that…..  how did you feel about not having any choices as a child….

These are some of the secrets to communicating effectively with your family members and transforming your relationships. By following these tips, you can create a positive culture of communication in your family that fosters trust, intimacy, and happiness.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and learned something useful from it. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them in the comments below. I would love to hear from you and answer any queries you may have.

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