Today I want to write about something that I have to consistently handle with adults and children alike even in my own family. It is something that even I have to remind myself of from time to time: I totally give my family permission to remind me it of as well. I’ll bet money that you will recognize this one and relate to it. Hopefully you will find some relief from the information provided here as well.
The subject is “good communication vs. bad communication (which in fact is no communication). Here is a scenario for you: It is close to dinner time. You just arrived home from a long day; you still have to wait on dinner a bit. The kids are playing around and not doing their homework or chores. Their viewpoint is that they had a long, hard day at school and they want some down time! Your viewpoint: if homework/chores don’t get done when they first get home, later they are too tired. Besides, didn’t they just have some play time the two hours they spent in after-school care before you picked them up?
You are tired, you are hungry and you tell the children to go do their homework/chores. You start out well enough, but they start to “negotiate” with you in that whiny way children do when they are tired and hungry. And you drop down into antagonism or anger – you use force rather than affinity and reality to get them to do what you want. You are communicating to them in a way you feel will get them to do what you want. Right? Or are you?
Here is another one: You are trying to make a point to your spouse. You have totally opposing viewpoints on what to do about a situation. You are tired and a little hungry and you start to argue. He or she starts to get louder and meaner sounding. You cut the communication off and what does the other one say? “I am trying to communicate to you and you are cutting my communication off!” Right? Have you had that happen?
OK, so let’s look at what is the problem in both those situations by looking at a very workable definition of good and bad communication.
First let’s look at bad or no communication:
“There are several ways to block a communication line (the route along which a communication travels from one person to another). One is to cut it, another one is to make it so painful that the person receiving it will cut it, and another one is to put so much on it that it jams. Those are three very important things to know about a communication line.”
So now let’s examine the above scenarios against this information:
If you are threatening the children into doing their homework or chores then the things you are saying are so painful that they just will not receive it! I can’t tell you how many times I hear parents say, “he/she just doesn’t seem to hear a word I am saying!” I have even had the children say to me, “I asked and asked for____ but it was like my parents didn’t even hear me!” “Well show me how you asked?” is usually my next question.
Or here is one I have been guilty of: you lecture and lecture and lecture your child on the importance of something. You start to get upset as you see his/her eyes glaze over! There was too much communication on the line, it got jammed! So why are you getting upset with the child?
Or how about this one: both your children are playing and one gets upset, covers his/her ears and makes a loud noise so as not to hear the other. (He/she just cut that communication).
All of those are just some examples of bad or no communication. There is talk and yelling and words flying, but they are not received or understood. No communication.
Now let’s look at what good communication is: (From the same above reference)
“…communication must be good communication: the necessary data sent in the necessary direction and received.”
Ah! So that would be the trick! How do we achieve that, when we are tired and hungry or angry? How can we view the other person’s point of view enough to see what they are not getting about our own viewpoint or our understanding of something?
Well, this is what I am trying and it seems to be working pretty well most of the time:
First I had every member of the family understand what is good and bad communication. Then when disagreements occur, the first thing we can do is just stop and recognize – OMG! I just need to stop forcing my viewpoint on this person and either wait until I am not tired and hungry or angry and talk to them later. Or just remove all other distractions in an up-beat manner and with interest in what the other person wants to do, acknowledging them fully, then place the homework or chore in front of them and ask them if they are OK to do it themselves or if they need help!
If I see their eyes glaze over I can force myself to just stop talking and see if they have already gotten my point, ask their understanding and ideas about it and just knock off the one-way flow of communication to them.
But even better, if I can practice and know to send the necessary information to the right person who should be receiving it and then ensure they did receive it in an interested manner, well that would be the ideal situation.
I know old habits and patterns and handlings handed down from parent to child (who is now the parent) can be difficult to break. And I know that when you are about to lose control, not get your way or your desire, one can in fact become angry. But all of us can keep it in mind and it is something the whole family can practice together and help each other with.
If there is a time when I start to lose my temper, my teenage daughter now will stop talking about whatever was setting me off (instead of continuing) and say, “Let’s eat first.” “Or let’s get some sleep and talk about it in the morning.” And then when she brings it back up she will have thought it through and will give me the necessary data I need to make a decision. Does she always get her way? No, but she does get it way more often than not, and certainly more often than she did before. Knowing this data gave her a tool to help us both work our way to good communication.
I just know that when we do apply this information, we both end up being way happier and somehow we both end up getting what we want. So I am passing this magic on and sharing it with you! I hope that it helps you as much as it has my family and the families I’ve worked with.
For more helpful information like this you can contact Mace-Kingsley Family Center at www.macekingsley.com or 727-442-3922 and ask to be on their mailing list.
Wishing you daily joy,
Diane DiGregorio Norgard
Mace-Kingsley Family Center