Communication is a complex topic, and countless courses and books have been devoted to it. However, there are a few “basics” that are beneficial for all of us to remember, and they work well with everyone from kids to co-workers.
- Ask if this is a good time to talk. Set a specific time if it isn't.
- Use “I” messages. Where possible, begin your sentence with “I” rather than “you”. This helps people feel less defensive and guarded. Rather than saying “You never help around here and I’m tired of it”, try something like, “I’m not feeling comfortable with the current division of labor and would like to talk about how we can adjust things”.
- This one is obvious- but no name-calling, sarcasm, or yelling. BE careful with humor when talking about sensitive topics. It can be used very effectively to diffuse a touchy topic, but what is funny to you, may not be to your partner or child. If it isn't funny to both of you, it isn't funny in this situation.
- Don’t ramble- keep it short so the listener doesn’t get bored or feel overwhelmed. Don't lecture!
- Use praise and compliments generously- we all like to know we’ve done a good job or have made a good effort. Let others know you appreciate them! This includes everyone in your family.
- Parents have their roles in the family, and children have theirs. It’s important to keep these boundaries clear.
- Make your requests for teamwork from children specific and without unnecessary explanation- you do not need to say how tired or busy you are. Families can be thought of as a team, with parents as the coaches- everyone can have a role to play and a contribution to make. Just make sure that it is age, and role-appropriate.
- If tempers start to flare, suggest taking a breather and discussing it further at a set time later on.
- Make sure you are not just trying to talk with your child (or partner) when there is a problem. If that is the case, they will start to avoid you. Be sure to have little chats that have nothing to do with homework, grades, behavior, manners, money, in-laws, etc;
- You will get more information if you ask open-ended questions, rather than questions that start with “do you”, or “did you”, and only lead to a "yes" or "no" reply. Try using “what” and “how” more frequently.
- Think about your own voice and the “tone”- is your voice pleasant and calm, or does your tone tend to put people on the defensive?
- Remember to say “please” and “thank you”. It’s good role-modeling and helps establish a warmer vibe.
- Try not to let feelings get bottle up. People who are passive often over-correct and come across as aggressive when their goal is to be assertive. Consider reading one of the great books on the topic of assertiveness training for some wonderful tips and specific techniques.
- What you Mom said was true, you will get more flies with honey than vinegar, but that doesn’t mean you need to be sincere or sneaky about things. Communication is a complex topic and countless courses and books have been devoted to it. However, there are a few “basics” that are beneficial for all of us to remember, and they work well with everyone from kids to co-workers.
The above information is not intended as clinical or professional advice and is for informational purposes only. Every situation is unique. If communication is a significant issue in your family, consider seeking support from a qualified therapist.