But if improving the home-harmony is on your resolution this year, it is important to learn how to start off the conversation when you feel upset, irritated or angry. Here are our top 10 ways to avoid fights and improve family communication by leading with the right foot.
#1 Be sure you have your family member’s attention. Check for eye contact. Ask if this is a good time; don’t compete with TV, iPods or video games
#2 Begin with something positive. Whenever you need to have a serious discussion with anyone, it is always advisable to begin with something positive.
#3 Do not attack. Attacks tend to begin with “you” statements, such as “You are!” “You never!,” or, “You always!”
#4 Do not exaggerate. Exaggeration is one way in which we vent our feelings when we are upset. This may relieve our inner tension but it does not do much to promote harmony.
#5 Do not mind-read. Many people like to play amateur psychologist and figure out what others are thinking. If we assume, we run the risk of inflaming tempers at home.
#6 Focus on preferences, not principles. So often, we pretend that others feelings are not as important as the “principle” involved. As we argue, we desperately try to convince each other that we are “right.”
#7 Explain what made you feel the way you did. People often mistakenly assume that their feelings are universal. They think, “Anyone would feel the way I did.” It is so obvious to them that their feelings were “normal” that they see no need to explain to others exactly why they feel the way they do. Instead, they simply recount the disturbing events and let the tale speak for itself.
#8 Clarify your needs. You will not be able to get what you want from family members unless you are able to articulate exactly what your needs are. You have to tell them not only what bothers you, but also what you would have wanted done differently.
#9 Limit yourself to one or two topics. Family members sometimes find that they have accumulated a long laundry list of complaints and grievances. When each one finally gets his or her turn to be the speaker, (s) he often tries to address too many subjects all at once. Use a “Talking Stick” to be sure each person gets time to be heard.
#10 Allow time for questions at the end. You would not learn very much attending a class if you were never permitted to ask questions. Similarly, you will not communicate effectively if you do not give your family members the opportunity to ask questions to clarify what you have just said.
It might be hard to remember to do everything every time. But by making a conscious effort and adopting at least one of these tools, you will find that you have improved the communication in your home.
For more communications tips be sure to visit our Let’s Talk page. What have you found works well in your home?
List Modified from, “Ten Minutes a Day to a Better Marriage: Getting Your Spouse to Understand You,” by Dr. Meir Wikler (Artscroll/Mesorah Publications, 2003)