Six Ingredients for Healthy Communication

Excerpts from Making Healthy Families

Making Healthy Families

By Gayle Peterson, Ph.D.

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

  1. Listening and empathy: be sure to keep practicing
  2. Speaking for yourself and not others
    Children whose experiences are constantly explained by someone else may not develop their own sense of what their feelings or opinions are, much less be able to express themselves in the world. A developing sense of self includes speaking for yourself and not others, unless they are truly unable to do so (i.e. too young or too sick, etc.) Though children may not always be able to express themselves clearly, they will develop their ability to do so if given the opportunity. Valuing the expression of feelings, however, does not mean you are always in agreement. Nor do feelings negate consequences or discipline when it is required.
  3. Self-disclosure
    Being able to share your own feelings of resentment as well as love and appreciation are examples of sharing intimate feelings in the family. Feeling safe enough to share things that may be troubling requires that families do not expect perfection in people. If self-disclosure is practiced, a family can be a safe place to retreat from the world, temporarily, while recovering from life’s ups and downs.
  4. Clarity of the message
    Whether a message is clearly communicated depends on how direct the communication is and if the verbal and non-verbal communication matches. Non-verbal tone which does not match the content of the message can also be confusing, particularly to young children who understand tonality but don’t yet fully comprehend words.
  5. Continuity: Tracking and staying on topic
    Researchers found that completing discussions of a topic during a conversation contributed significantly to healthy family communication. Discussions, which allow for democratic expression, opinions and sharing, while staying on track, enable children to learn the skills necessary to set and achieve goals. Critical thinking is a process that is learned in the family setting.
  6. Respect and positive regard
    Naturally the more you feel like you matter, the easier the flow of communication in a family. To treat one another with respect for feelings, even when we disagree has clearly obvious benefits. However, less obvious is whether for other reasons, people feel unimportant in the family. Younger siblings are often the most vulnerable to feeling unimportant in a family because of their developmental limits. It is important to take time to listen to youngsters who do not yet have the vocabularies or speed in self-expression that their older sibs enjoy.

Go to: Communication Under Pressure: Conflict & Compromise

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Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

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