Strong communication among family members is said to be one of the top five factors present in families that thrive.
Working in the field of communication as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I know effective communication among family members is essential to a happy, healthy family but that doesnt make it easier to accomplish during the hustle and bustle of everyday activities.
Communication, time to sit and have meaningful conversations with our family members, seems to be getting lost in todays fast paced world.
In praise of slowness
I was motivated to focus on my familys communication after watching a recent TED talk by journalist Carl Honore: In praise of slowness.
He described a letter that new undergraduates entering Harvard are receiving and the title of the letter is: Slow Down!
It seems that even prestigious educational institutions are realizing that you will get more out of life if you put on the brakes. They are encouraging new students entering Harvard to do less and give more time to things time that things need.
Time is a great first step towards improving your familys communication. Here are some suggestions to challenge your family to include more effective communication in your familys routine.
Step One: Slow Down!
Carl Honore makes a point of highlighting that if people slow down at the right moments you can do everything better.
You can eat better, work better, live better. The same goes for communication. Trying to do more and more in less and less time to race to the finish line at the end of the day leaves little time for talking.
Slowing down will bring your family closer together and give more opportunities to share your thoughts and feelings.
Brainstorm with your family to see what things can be done more efficiently or not at all to make a little more to slow down.
Is there a meal that everyone can join at the end of the day with the tv turned off? Can bedtime preparations be given a little more time to slow things down rather than resorting to the One-Minute Bedtime Story series?
Can you plan to drive somewhere a little farther to have time to talk and catch up in the car?
Step Two: Keep your messages clear and concise.
If you have something important to discuss with a family member be aware of their age and attention span.
Going into a lengthy description of a problem you are having will more than likely mean you will lose your audience, young or old.
Making clear, simple, statements will allow your concerns to be better received and there is a greater chance you will get family members to listen.
Step Three: W.A.I.T.
If a family member comes to you wanting to discuss an important issue always keep in mind W.A.I.T.: Why am I talking?
The key to successful communication is to be a good listener. The person who is talking gets the floor to share their thoughts and ideas.
Avoid interrupting and if you have something to say think about why you are talking. Repeat what the person has said to ensure you understand what they are saying.
Ask yourself, have you really listened to what the other person is trying to tell you first? Do you understand what they are trying to tell you?
Step Four: Communicate face-to-face – use positive facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
Communication includes both the words that you use as well as non-verbal language. In fact, research has shown that only 7% of what you communicate is done so with actual words.
The remainder of your message is relayed using your body language and tone of voice.
It is important to consider that the benefits of effective communication with family members requires face-to-face close physical proximity.
Consider your gestures and body language. Nod your head in agreement to show that you are listening and engaged in what your family member is saying.
Show when you are confused so the person you are talking with can clarify what they are saying.
As much as you think about the words that you use, think about how you are sitting do you have your arms crossed looking impatient or are you sitting comfortably so that your family member knows that you are listening?
Use a calm tone of voice to let the person you are talking with feel comfortable taking their time to communicate what is on their mind at this moment.
Step Five: Ask specific or open-ended questions
When we ask questions at the end of the day such as, Did you have a good day at school? your chances of having a longer, meaningful conversation with your child are slim.
Open-ended questions will likely spark more spontaneous conversations. For example, What was the best part of school today? What did you think of the dessert I packed for you?
If your question can be answered with yes or no that may be the end of your communication attempt.
Try making mental notes of friends and events that are happening during your childs week so that you can ask more specific questions such as,
Who did Mr. Jackson have to send to the principals office today?
Where did Abby and her family go on her vacation this year? I saw that she was back in school today.
Overall, be aware that communication is key to your familys success and try to find ways to talk more together. Be present, enjoy your conversations; however short or long, and appreciate that the multi-tasking universe that we live in doesnt work for everything.