We get it. Sometimes it may seem easier to look the other way instead of approaching a family member with a problem. However, ignoring issues can cause more harm than good, and practicing good family communication can help you keep the peace and even make things better.
Fortunately, communicating with family doesn't have to be something you grew up doing; it's also a skill you can learn. Understanding the importance of family communication will help you realize that while sweeping things under the rug may be easier, you've totally got the skills you need to make things better.
1. Family Communication Is Important for Understanding Each Other
When you're able to communicate with family members, you will be able to share what you believe and learn what others feel is right. While you may not agree, you may begin to understand more about the reasons why they do what they do or say what they say.
You could even grow a better appreciation for them. It's all about understanding a different perspective. It's the same process that helps us get along with and even appreciate diverse cultural backgrounds.
To better understand your family members, try sitting down and communicating your feelings about something that's not actually that big a deal. Instead of politics, talk about food, movies, or books. Discuss how you really feel about that thing and practice listening to each other's perspectives.
2. Communication Helps a Family Solve Problems Together
When there's a little thing annoying you or something you just don't want to make into a huge issue, we totally get the temptation to avoid it. The thing is, sidestepping issues won't make the problems go away, and it can even intensify the feelings you will have about future disagreements. Coming together to talk about a particular problem can open the lines of communication so you can work as a team to find solutions.
One great way to solve problems as a family is to set a family strategy for communicating about these issues. Researchers have found it works really well for families to define the problem, brainstorm solutions without judgment, and then choose a solution that works for everyone. This step-by-step approach can take practice, so it's good to try it on smaller issues first.
3. End Gossip With Good Family Communication
In some families, gossip can be a real issue. In fact, studies show that negative gossip can actually harm group bonds and make people less likely to work hard at communication in the future. Good communication is key to avoiding gossip, though. Instead of just listening to what people say about someone else and passing that on, it's better to focus on open and direct communication and make your family stronger.
It's not always easy, but going to the family member people are gossiping about to ask about the situation is a great way to open communication so that no one gets the wrong impression. You don't have to say where you got the tea. Just ask what the true situation is.
4. Be Better at Supporting Each Other When You Communicate
It's simple, really. If you know what you need and tell each other, you're way better at supporting one another when you really need some help or are just feeling overwhelmed. Even if nothing can be done about the situation, just providing a listening ear can make all the difference. Supporting each other is all about telling someone what you need and knowing that person will listen.
Active listening is key here, and it's an easy one to practice. When one family member has a problem, encourage them to share what they need. Then have another family member reflect that back to them to show they understand. For example, the listener might say, "I hear you saying you're overwhelmed because the house is messy and you need some help cleaning."
5. Good Family Communication Makes the Tough Times Easier
If there's one guarantee in life, it's that it's not always going to be easy. Setbacks and losses are bound to happen to all of us. Being able to communicate with family can make these times less stressful and awful, though. For instance, studies show that good family communication at the end of life can help terminally ill patients get better care and help reduce the stress on the family. The same is true for any hard time, including job losses, chronic illnesses, financial stress, and more.
This is a good skill to practice with kids. While problems with peers or school might not seem as serious as the big issues we're talking about, they're really good practice for communication about challenges. Encourage kids to talk about what's bothering them.
6. Communicating With Family Lets You Form Tighter Bonds
Trusting in family members by communicating with them will foster the love you share and tighten your bonds. Some families grow apart because the individual members each become wrapped up in their own lives, and they forget to come to home base to talk about the world around them. When problems do come up, if you've established a strong communicative base with your family, you'll feel as though your family is a safe place to seek shelter.
One really good way to keep those bonds strong and practice communication is through family meal times. Research shows that regular family meals maintain those family connections and give you a chance to have give-and-take conversations, so bring on the pot roast or pizza night.
Good Family Communication Examples to Keep in Mind
Sometimes, it's nice to have some examples to inspire you. These are a few situations where one family member is communicating well:
- Sarah is putting her daughter to bed, and her daughter says she doesn't want to go back to school the next day. Instead of telling her daughter she has to go to school, Sarah asks her about why she wants to stay home. She finds out her daughter is scared of another child, so they work together to brainstorm ideas to solve the problem.
- Jared is terminally ill, and he sits down with his two sons to talk about what he wants for his end-of-life care. When the time comes, his sons feel comforted knowing they followed Jared's wishes.
- Teenager Finn is overwhelmed with homework, after-school activities, and chores. He asks his mom to do his normal chore of washing the dishes for three nights this week so he can get caught up. She listens to his request and helps him.
Remember the Importance of Family Communication
Communicating with family members is easy when you're calm and collected, but it may seem impossible to communicate anything to the other person during disagreements. This is where practice comes in handy. If you've been focusing on family communication during calm times, you'll be able to call on those skills when you really need them.