How to Talk with Your Family
by Eric Maise
Editor: What’s the biggest issue you have with your family?? I bet it’s communication. That’s a very common issue for people with hearing loss; it’s an issue in all aspects of their lives and the importance of family just increases the importance of the issue.
Here’s an article by a marriage and family counselor. Note that this article is not addressed at people with hearing loss, but at the general population. The issues and advice are things that apply to all of us. If hearing families commonly have these communications problems, how much more difficult is it when we add hearing loss to the situation.
If you decide to try to improve communications in your family, you might want to start by discussing this article ;^). Thanks to Dr. Maisel for permission to reprint this article.
Family members too often get caught up in their own worries and needs and haven’t the patience or empathy to communicate with each other. They criticize, command, or lash out rather than love and cherish. Learning communication skills is vital if you are going to nurture those you love the most.
Communication begins with you. Usually if one person in the family sets out to improve communication, the whole family is encouraged and more loving communication can begin.
Take time to listen. Give undivided attention when someone is speaking to you, listening not only to the other person’s words, but what’s behind them. Be more interested in what is being said than in figuring out how to reply or fix the problem.
Be direct but kind. Being direct isn’t the same as being blunt or mean. By your tone, your inflection, your body language, and by the words themselves, you can communicate the fact that you have something to say but don’t mean to hurt, insult, or criticize your listener.
Give feedback. Feedback is great when it isn’t disguised criticism, but make sure your motivation is love. Silence is not a good or a loving response to problems.
Ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Often you don’t understand what your mate, child, or sibling is saying. That may be because he or she is sending a mixed message, has a secret agenda, hasn’t thought through what is being said, or is communicating only a small part of what is on his or her mind. Ask questions in a thoughtful loving way and stay in dialogue until you understand.
Don’t let stress do the talking. People feel stressed and anxious much of the time, therefore, think before you speak. Speak from love, not irritation. Care about your listener and ultimately seek to reduce the stress in your family’s lives.
Give everybody a chance to speak. Do certain members dominate the conversation? Are any voices being silenced or left out? For a family to work, everyone’s voice needs to be heard. It still may fall on Mom and Dad to make the final decision, but it should be based on everyone’s input.
Present big news carefully and completely. People often don’t want to talk about the unpleasant things – which are often the most important things. Talk to your family about the cancer diagnosis, admit you’ve lost the job or are being transferred, or the divorce. While it’s unpleasant, it gives the family members the chance to pull together, lend a hand, and meet the challenge.
Say Please when you mean it and Thank You all the time. Please is not a command word – it is a request word in which the person you’re talking to has the option of saying no. When you are making a request, use please, but when you are making a demand or a declaration, choose some other form of speech. For example: Bring down your laundry in the next 15 minutes if you want me to wash your gym clothes for Monday. You can’t say thank you too much – it expresses gratitude and encourages cooperation.
Have real conversations with your loved ones – every day. Discuss ideas instead of just schedules. Practice talking about feelings and thoughts on a regular basis so that when problems come along you will have established communication skills and trust.