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Helpful Family Communications

March 2016

Being part of a family can be really wonderful.  At other times it can be not so pleasant.  When you are getting along, feeling good, and having fun together your family can feel like a source of strength and pleasure.  However, when people don’t feel cared about, when they create disturbances or are mad, being in the family can feel like living in a dark hole. If you would like your family to be a pleasurable place to live more of the time, establishing positive guidelines for healthy, supportive communications is important. 

In order to establish positive communications, the first thing you should do is to eliminate negative and unhelpful ones.  We all know how hurtful communication that has a mean intent can be.  It always makes things worse.  Therefore, we must strive to do our best not to use them.  Name calling is at the top of the list.  You can be sure that if you call another family member, or anyone else for that matter, stupid, lazy, an idiot, or a fag, you are not doing anything to help them.  Threats such as “I’m going to make you pay mightily for this!” or “I’m leaving,” are also things that do nothing to promote good-will between family members.

Lectures, giving the other person the cold shoulder, being sarcastic, and interrupting, are also not helpful.  In fact, they are humiliating.  In addition, when you play the victim by saying something like, “You are ruining my life!” or, “What did I do to deserve a child like you,” you may think you are getting in the last word.  In actual fact you are putting a greater distance between you and the person you love. 

When you make negative predictions, such as “You’ll never get that job,” or “No one will ever want to marry you,” or you exaggerate situations by saying things like, “You never clean up your room,” or, “You can’t do anything right,” you can be assured your communications with your family members are going to be compromised in a negative way.  In addition, when a member of the family is being deliberately unhelpful and inconsiderate, he or she is not contributing to harmonious family relations. 

Now that you have a list of ways you can be unhelpful in creating a loving family, what can you do that will ensure that you get more positive results?  First, rather than using blaming statements that start with “you,” try using “I” statements that tell the other person how you feel.  In addition, as often as possible, acknowledge the positive things that other family members say and do.  Whenever you talk with each other, look directly at the person so he or she will feel you are really paying attention.  Be honest about your thoughts and feelings, while being careful not to judge the other person at the same time. 

It is important also that you don’t speak for another person.  Let everyone be responsible for speaking for themselves. When the other person is speaking, show your respect by not interrupting.  Instead, actively listen and reflect back what you heard him or her say before you add thoughts of your own.  When you do make a comment, be specific about what you mean. This gives the other person a better chance to make use of both positive and negative things you have to say. 

Now that you have some specific ways to improve communication in your family, be sure to put them into practice.  By doing such things as expressing your appreciation, apologizing when necessary, and reducing your part in arguments, you will achieve greater happiness and harmony in your family.  If all members do so, your family will be a place of strength, hope, wisdom, and love for all. 

For more information on family communication:  “Creating Family Freedom” by Lane Lasater, Ph.D.





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