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Keeping Communication Alive Within The Family
Edith Schaeffer in her book “What is a family?” describe it as “unity and diversity, form and freedom, togetherness and individuality.” Today in our transitory society where values are constantly changing and everyone is preoccupied with their own interests, family members have no time to spend in conversation, no time to listen or even eat a meal together. The family as a unit is on unstable ground. Most people believe that the lack of communication in the family is responsible for this disintegration.
Every stable and healthy family is strengthened by communication that helps them know each other better and relate in positive ways. Each member whether parent, child or sibling has different perception of a given situation and different expectations. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings and stress avoidance. The purpose of communication is not only to convey information but to share thoughts, feelings and emotions.
What is communication?
It is the process of conveying information to another person or persons either verbally or non-verbally. Only 50% of communication is done through words. Nonverbal methods are through body language, facial expressions, or tone and tone of voice. Housewives use dramatic ways to communicate their anger by burning the food they are preparing or neglecting important tasks that they normally do. In some situations, Silence is also a way of communication and often speaks better than words.
How to communicate effectively in the family:
Information that needs to be conveyed to a person is called Instrumental Communication. But it becomes Affective when members are given an opportunity to express their feelings of joy, happiness, sadness or anger.
• Communicate often. Whenever one finds time either during meals or at bedtime or when traveling together, talk to each other. It’s good to have “family time” when you turn off the TV, or phone or computer, to have time to talk. Children with working parents can only see them at night, and they need “family time” to inspire confidence in their parents’ love and concern.
• Communicate clearly and directly. Avoid making vague statements or sarcastic remarks.
• Be an active listener to what others are saying. Show that you are attentive with a nod or a smile, or an occasional question.
• Provide an environment where members can be honest with each other and share their views and opinions. This makes for a trusting relationship. Every person young or old is a respected member of the family.
• Communication between spouses is usually different from how parents communicate with their children and vice versa.
• Be aware of non-verbal messages such as body language or facial expressions.
• Be positive. Criticism should not undermine one’s self-esteem but build confidence. Complimenting the person verbally is a way to show appreciation, encouragement and support.
• Show affection through a touch, a word, a smile or a kiss.
Reasons for lack of communication:
1. If the father is an autocrat. A father should not decide how to solve a problem without discussing it with other members.
2. Very strict parents who enforce impractical rules without considering their children’s feelings.
3. Lack of expression of love either in words, gestures or behavior of the parents.
4. Disrespect for each other.
5. Lack of time to communicate because of preoccupation with one’s own career.
Epstein et al (1993) described some ways of communication.
– Clear and Direct: The message is directed to the intended recipient.
– Clear but indirect: Addressed by a particular person.
– Masked and Indirect: When neither the message nor the recipient is clear.
Why is communication important?
• Because each member has a chance to express his needs or desires or problems that bother him.
• Members become aware of their differences in an atmosphere of love and affection.
• Give an opportunity to solve problems and solve them amicably. When there is no communication, problems remain unresolved, frustration sets in and family conflict increases. This prevents intimacy and emotional bonding. In marriage, lack of communication can lead to separation and divorce. In children, behavioral problems may appear. Later in life, antisocial behavior or even deviant lifestyles may occur.
• The tone of voice indicates the mental state of the person. A loud and aggressive tirade is a destructive way to communicate. One must be calm, clear and precise.
• Responding positively shows empathy with the speaker. No one should interrupt him or jump to conclusions before hearing him.
• Each family has its own style and pattern of communication. There should be no comparison with what other families are doing.
• For harmony in the family, each must appreciate the other’s strengths and respect each other’s differences.
• Speak from your heart in a voice that expresses interest and concern. As Milton said,
“The voice that melts in the labyrinth runs, twists all the chains that bind the soul of the hidden harmony.”
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