Regardless of how much everyone loves one another, most families will experience problems at one time or another. Learning to communicate openly and honestly can help build relationships that will withstand these challenges that families face. When you calmly communicate how you feel with your loved ones, you create an atmosphere that encourages and allows them to respond and share how they feel.
To practice building awareness of the many ways – both verbal and non-verbal – that you communicate with those you care about, begin to pay attention to how well you actively listen and also hone in on what your non-verbal communication is divulging.
Active Listening – Active listening is allowing the listener to be involved with the speaker. It is to better understand what is being said and gives us the opportunity to be fully present for the speaker. Listen silently with full attention on what the other person is saying by establishing eye contact, nodding and using encouraging phrases. Also take the time and consideration to really acknowledge the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.
Nonverbal Communication – Communication experts estimate that 90 percent of our messages is not what we say, but rather how we say it. Our body language carries the credibility of the messages we send and will either reinforce or contradict our words. Often times, when we are not talking is when we are saying the most. Use eye contact to establish a connection and keep your body posture open and accepting rather than closed and defensive (i.e. – arms crossed over your chest). You may want to do a nod of “uh-huh” to show that you are actively participating in listening to what your loved one is communicating.
The people in your family are likely you most loved ones in your life. It is important to show affection and appreciation during the sometimes difficult moments we have as families. Like the old saying “it is not what you say, but rather what you do,” take the opportunity to show and participate in affection.
Affection – Each member of the family has a need for love and affection. Each person also has the responsibility to show love and affection to other people in the family. The way you show love can be different for the different people in your family. What one child feels is loving might be felt as bothersome by a different child. Each person’s individual needs should be respected and thoughtfully tended to.
Appreciation - Begin to recognize and appreciate the contributions of everyone in the family, together and individually. It is amazing to start to see the small things that really help make the family whole and complete. Take time to show your family members how much you appreciate them and how much they matter to you. Ways of showing appreciation may vary from child to child and partner, so add some extra time and care into what you think each member of your family may enjoy as a form of appreciation. Remember there is never such a thing as too many hugs!
Our relationships with others are what enrich our lives, especially the ones who we call family members. If we are able to communicate with our families openly and honestly, it will only improve the quality of our lives and strengthen the bond our families.