Communication is a complicated thing. If you’ve ever played the game, “Telephone,” you know how easily messages can be misconstrued once they’ve left your lips. Add to that the fact that we are all, essentially, living in our own world, and it becomes clear that understanding each other takes a series of small miracles. Luckily, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help clear up the chaos of communication.
First, let’s divide the two most common forms of communication: aggressiveness, and passive aggressiveness.
That was a joke.
But, seriously, veiled anger is something that can derail the best efforts at getting a message across. So, if you sense that someone is angry with you, the best thing that you can do is ask them directly. Likewise, if you are upset with someone, honesty is the best policy. Just be sure to use “I-statements,” to focus on your experience rather than what you see as the other person’s mistakes.
Let’s use an example to see how this works. Let’s pretend that your loving child does something that really bothers you, like, leaves his dirty towels on the bathroom floor. The part of you that doesn’t want conflict tells you to stay quiet and hope that one day he stops acting like he was raised in a barn. But, the truth is that if we do not address issues head-on, our feelings of resentment grow, which can cause bigger problems in the future. So, you might say something like; “I (or Mommy, depending on the age of your child) feel very frustrated when I see the towels left on the bathroom floor. Could you please put them in the hamper? If you don’t I’m going to have to take away your television time.” Clear, concise, and completely reasonable.
But let’s say that your child isn’t feeling so reasonable and he responds by leaving, not only, his towels on the floor, but his underwear as well. This is textbook passive aggression, and it’s not fun at any age. Here is where it would be appropriate to ask your child to describe how he felt when you asked him to put his clothes in the hamper. Sometimes passive aggressive acts are a “cry for help,” from children who do not know better ways to express their anger. This is why helping him to talk about his feelings, while explaining to him that his behavior was not appropriate, can be so effective.
Once you open the door to talking about feelings communication becomes much more straight-forward. Then you can incorporate tools like: proper eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, and use of personal space. All of these factors play a role in how your message comes across to the other person. Just be sure to keep cultural sensitivities in mind, as what is considered polite in one country may be a sign of aggression in another!
If you would like more strategies on how to communicate effectively with your children, or anyone in your life, contact us. We are here to help.