Tips for Clearer Communication at Home…
Written by Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services
Few things shine a spotlight on all your flaws and conflicts like being stuck at home together with your family for weeks at a time. This is also a wonderful opportunity (from my perspective) to work on improving communication.
Learning new communication skills and strategies is a large part of family and couple counseling. In fact, better communication can reduce conflict and help you all feel more connected – something we all need right now.
Here are a few tips for better communication:
Sometimes in families communication seems to only be about family business, such as who is doing what with the kids or the housework. Be intentional about taking time to get to know one another in fun ways – there are plenty of conversation starter card decks that you can use to begin conversations. Or you can just plan fun activities together such as game night or movie night, and agree that none of you will talk about the usual family issues just for that night.
Have a family meeting.
Having a weekly time set aside for everyone to come together and talk about what’s working and what you want to do differently can open up lines of communication. Parents of course make the final decisions, but it’s a good idea to let this be something like a brainstorming session at first. Don’t shoot down anyone’s ideas, hopes, or wishes without sincere consideration and discussion.
Although it’s counterintuitive, if you want to be a better communicator you will likely have to spend more time listening. The people around you just want to feel heard most of the time. Letting them know you heard them will improve communication a lot. A simple way to do this is just to gently paraphrase what they just said and check to make sure you got it right, before responding.
Use “I” statements.
This does not come naturally in communication. Often we are accusing or generalizing, making statements such as “You never put the dishes in the dishwasher” or “Why does it seem like I’m the only one who tidies up around here?” If you can take a moment and use an “I” statement that specifically states what has happened, how you feel about it, and what you would like to do differently, your communication will take a different tone. Instead of “You never put the dishes in the dishwasher” try “I feel frustrated when there are piles of dishes in the sink because then we won’t have any clean dishes. So please put them in the dishwasher and run a cycle when it is full.” (A chore chart might also help!)
And on that note – family members and especially children and teens aren’t mind readers. They will be better able to respond when you are specific. So, as an example, instead of “I need you to pick up your messy room right this moment” break it down into action items that are specific and achievable based on the child’s age. Try “Please put all the books back on the bookshelves and make sure the Legos are in their container before dinner.”
Take a break.
It’s ok to take a break when a conversation gets heated — just make sure that after 20-30 minutes when you have all calmed down, you can come back together and talk about what happened.
There’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to communication. Couples therapists in particular know that when defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling or contempt are showing up in communication, it’s time to get some help. There are antidotes to each of these problems — so reach out and set up a Telehealth session with any of our counselors and start working on these concerns.
Call (757-276-7069) or email me (MVann@whitecloudtherapy.com), Madeline Vann at White Cloud Therapeutic Services LLC (whitecloudtherapy.com) if you have questions or would like a confidential Telehealth session for support during this time.
Article was written and sponsored by Resident in Counseling Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services