Six Ingredients for Healthy Communication
By Gayle Peterson, Ph.D.
Copyright 1996-2003. Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.
- Listening and empathy: be sure to keep
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
to: Communication Under Pressure: Conflict