Effective communication is essential in any type of relationship. It is especially important in building strong bonds within marriages, between siblings, and between parents and their children. Poor communication can lead to a breakdown in family functioning, including a lack of intimacy or togetherness, excessive conflict, and the inability to solve problems or accept differences. Poor communication, or a lack of communication, is a common complaint among couples and families seeking counseling. In order to promote healthier family relationships, individuals must try to express themselves in a way that others can understand, actively listen and try to understand what is being said to them, and be able to recognize non verbal cues, which often accounts for more communication than actual spoken words.
Communication is a way to express our likes and dislikes, our hopes and fears, and to find ways to have our needs met. As technology advances to improve communication, many of the subtle nuances of effective communication have fallen by the wayside. Although email and texts are much faster than previous ways of communicating, those using these technologies should remember to take the time to think about what they are about to say before saying it. Many families find that taking a little bit of time out of their busy day to sit down and have a meal together can open the door to communication and drastically improve their functioning as a family. Previous research has shown that children whose families eat dinner together 5 or more nights a week are much less likely to use drugs or engage in other self harming behaviors. Going for walks and playing board games are good times for parents to communicate with teenagers or younger children without the pressure of direct face to face contact or with it feeling like a lecture.
Sometimes poor communication styles are the results of what individuals learn in their environment. But even couples who have been together for many years and have previously had good communication can suffer a breakdown in that communication. Good communication takes practice and effort. Own your words and try not to fall into a pattern of shaming or blaming. Know that it is not possible to make everyone happy all of the time, and that a compromise doesn’t mean there is a winner or a loser, just that a new solution has been found. It is important that each person in any kind of a relationship be heard and their feelings considered. It is in this way that not only the individual can thrive, but the couple or the family can thrive as well.
Andrea Hawk, ASW
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