24 April, 2020
Surviving Families under Covid-19 Lock Down #4
It is hard to overstate the importance of effective communication in families, particularly during lock down. That is why it is this weeks topic.
Communication is a wide ranging topic - it is impossible to cover everything here. Instead this article will focus on a few key aspects and some practical ideas to help improve communication within families.
It might sound obvious but listening to each other really is the cornerstone to good communication. It's something that many of us struggle with - it takes more effort than we think to actively engage with what someone is saying and to hear, and understand, what they are saying. Often we are not listening but rather, just not talking while we wait for our turn to speak. Listening is not something that happens automatically, it is something that needs to be focused on and should really be an active activity.
A significant number of arguments and frustrations in families start with people not feeling listened to. And it's something we are all guilty of at times - the nod of agreement, or the ‘yes dear’, when you have not really listened and are distracted by something or someone else.
While this might seem a good strategy in the short term - anything to get some peace and quiet - it is unlikely to be effective in the long term. The other person might take this as an agreement to do, or not do, something. In the home this could be thinking someone has agreed to do the washing up, tidying a bedroom, putting the bins out or other household tasks. When these tasks are not done annoyance and frustration creeps in, arguments follow, the peace and quiet is shattered and everyone is left feeling angry and upset.
A better strategy is to try to focus on what is being said and then try to summarise what was said to check your understanding, e.g. “so you want me to put the recycling out after dinner?”. This serves two purposes:
- it allows you to check that you understand what the other person meant
- it also lets the other person know you have listened to them and tried to understand them
This means that they are less likely to have to ask again (another cause of frustration and arguments). If it is not a good time when they ask, say so and give a better time to speak to you.
Keep it short
As mentioned above, listening is not always easy. If we want people to be able to focus on what we are trying to say then we need to make it easy for them. The best way to do this is to try and focus on what are the important points you want them to understand, keeping what you say short and concise.
An example of this could be,
I need you to wash up after dinner”.
This is much shorter than giving a more detailed explanation of how long you have spent cooking a meal, that you need to prepare for tomorrow and that you are really tired. These things are important but they aren't the key reason for this interaction.
Try not to blame
Everyone is finding this time hard and it is easy to find fault with others. Instead, try to be kind and focus on how your are feeling. Compare the following statements:
You make me so angry when you treat this place like a hotel, you never do anything to help. I am so fed up of your lazy attitude”
I feel disappointment when you play games and I am in the kitchen. I would like you to help me out a bit more”
The first example is full of blame, it locates all the responsibility for change on the other party with out making it clear how they can fix this. It is likely to result in an argument.
In comparison, the second statement the speaker is taking responsibility for how they are feeling and does not blame anyone while making clear what the other party could do, or not do, to help to make the situation better.
We hope you are able to find some useful ideas in this article for making family life run more smoothly. Here's a few links that might be helpful.