WholeLife Matrix: Relationships / Family – Communication

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
— Peter Drucker

Learning to communicate effectively with family is especially important these days when we have many things competing for our time and attention including technology and work obligations.  But good communication is an essential part of connecting with others, communicating our thoughts and feelings and building and maintaining important relationships.  Effective communication requires learning what works and consistently applying good communication techniques.  Here are some tips:

Make time to Listen to the Members of Your Family
Good communication begins with making time to listen to the things that people want to talk about.  Sit down and talk for at least ten minutes a day with each family member without any distractions.  If you are traveling, tools such as Skype can help keep you connected to family.

Listen Effectively
Effective listening includes being completely present when someone is talking and listening carefully.  Ask the person you are listening to how they feel about a certain subject and allow them to share their feelings and thoughts. If you are not certain about what someone is telling you, rephrase what you hear.  You do not need to agree with what someone is telling you, but by letting them open up first, they will be more receptive to what you have to say later.

Your body language should show that you are listening attentively and are interested.  Turn your body towards the person and make eye contact.  As they are talking, nod your head occasionally to show that you are listening.  If you can’t see the person because they are on the phone, you might occasionally say something like “yes” or “right” to let them know you are still listening or that you agree with what they are saying.

Set a Positive Example
As the saying goes, you teach people how to treat you.  People learn from the examples you set, which includes setting boundaries and expectations.  Make sure to use a positive tone and that your tone and what you are saying match.  Be clear and, when you are disappointed about something, calmly express the disappointment.  Only deal with the present situation when you have a disagreement.

Show Empathy
When people show empathy for each other in relationships, they are more likely to stay together.  Showing empathy also helps to build good relationships with other family members and with people in daily life.  Instead of telling a person how they feel, how they should feel or dismissing a person’s feelings, let them know that you acknowledge how they feel and offer support when needed.

Use Clear and Direct Communication

It has been found that there are four general types of communication:  clear and direct communication, clear and indirect communication, masked and direct communication, and masked and indirect communication.  In clear and indirect communication, the message is not clearly directed to the person that it is intended for, even though the message is clear.  For example, a mother might say to her daughter: “someone forgot to take out the trash.”  The daughter knows that the “someone” being referred to is herself.  In masked and direct communication, the message is clearly directed to a certain person but the message is unclear. An example is when a mother says to her son “Jamie, people are not as reliable as they used to be.”

In masked and indirect communication, both the message and the person that the message is intended for are unclear.  This tends to be most common in families that have very poor communication and relationships.  Clear and direct communication is the most effective form of communication and happens when the message is said clearly and directly to the person that it is intended for.

Notice what type of communication you tend to use with your family and others.  Do you use clear and direct communication, clear and indirect communication, masked and direct communication or masked and indirect communication?  The type of communication you use can make a big difference in your family and work relationships.

In the WholeLife Matrix, we have four aspects for developing good communication:

1.   Check in Daily
2.  Family Meetings
3.  Extended Family
4.  Listening

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