Family communication is much more than just the exchange of words between family members. It is what we say, how we say it, why we say it, when we say it, and what we neglect to say. It is our facial expressions, our gestures, our posture, our vocal tones. Communication includes both verbal and nonverbal language. Words are the basic tools of verbal language. However, nonverbal language has many components such as:
- posture and body position
- facial expressions
- tone of voice
- gestures and mannerisms
- behavior and actions
What is Communication?
Communication means to impart, to pass along, to make known, to give and receive information. The word "communication" comes from the Latin word "communis" which means common. Therefore, when we attempt to communicate we are trying to establish a "commonness" with another individual or with a group. In a basic sense we are trying to share. Perhaps the most important communication skill is listening. Active listening is essential to effective family communication and is vital to hearing and being heard in the family unit. In active listening, judgment is suspended and the listener uses empathy to try to understand the person's experience, feelings, and point of view. The key principles of active listening are:
- ENCOURAGE - Draw the other person out.
- CLARIFY - Ask questions to confirm what the person has said.
- RESTATE - Repeat in your words what the person has said.
- REFLECT - In your own words, tell the person what you think he or she is experiencing.
- SUMMARIZE - Reiterate the major ideas, themes, and feelings the person has expressed.
- VALIDATE - Show appreciation for the person's efforts and acknowledge the value of talking.
Characteristics of Positive Communication Within Families
One of the characteristics of a strong family is the ability to communicate. Here are some tips to help you improve communication within your family unit.
- Appear interested and be interested.
- Listen to each other - hear what other family members are saying.
- Be sensitive to each other's feelings - try to identify the feeling.
- Do not jump to conclusions.
- Try to see things from each other's point of view - imagine yourself in the other person's position.
- Avoid being critical.
Family members communicate to exchange ideas, gain knowledge, and increase understanding of others. Good communication skills are evident in families who. . .
- spend time talking;
- share feelings, joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams, etc.;
- state individual needs and wants;
- do not fault find;
- face conflict honestly and openly;
- resolve problems by "win-win" methods;
- show appreciation for feelings and ideas;
- develop speaker and listener roles;
- communicate verbally and nonverbally;
- recognize what actions say;
- communicate directly;
- are consistent in behaviors and expectations.
Communication within the family unit must include all family members. So often younger children and even teens are left out of family conversations. If you have preschool, elementary, middle/junior high, or senior high school age young people in your family, here are some tips. Communication is a two-way process, so it is important to understand and value ALL members involved in the conversation.
Reprinted with the permission of Clemson University. © 2008 Clemson University.
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