Monday, 4 June 2012

Quick to hear, slow to speak - how good communication really works

       Here's a brief guide on how to communicate effectively within the most challenging arena of all - Your Home.

Respect other’s view                           
       How many times have you (and I) jumped to conclusions? Usually the wrong ones? How many times do we butt in when someone is trying to explain something to us, and either explode with rage and self-justification or stomp off in a huff?
       Hear them out. Maybe what you think they’re going to say and what they actually mean to say are two very different propositions.  Whatever the case, they have a right to be heard and, if you want them to treat your opinions with respect, then you must listen respectfully to theirs. The same applies whether you’re a parent or a teenager. Respect cuts both ways.
Listen carefully
       Try to keep calm and concentrate on what’s being said. And please, please, please, young ones, remove your earphones, turn off your iPod and stop texting! You parents may need to put down your newspapers, stop watching telly or tweeting!
       Once the other person has finished speaking, repeat what they’ve said back to them – again respectfully to let them know you’ve understood. If you’re the child in the relationship, comply with your parents’ (reasonable) requests (i.e. tidying your bedroom as opposed to holding up a bank!) As a result, parents will notice you’re behaving in a mature, responsible way and, when things calm down, may be more inclined to listen to your point of view.
       Of course, we parents also have a duty to listen, without always assuming we’re in the right. And if, despite your best efforts, things start to get heated, cut the conversation short and suggest you talk about things later when everyone’s calmed down.
       Children – remember, arguing with parents is a no win situation. Because,  believe it or not, your significant adults are invariably on your side!
Be reasonable
       There comes a point when every teenager demands more freedom.  What you need to bear in mind is that, far from wishing to spoil your fun, loving parents are bound to worry and, by asking you to be home at a certain time, are merely trying to protect you.  If you stick to their rules, especially when it comes to being home at a certain time, your parents are more likely to trust you in the future, allowing you more freedom and privileges.
       On the other hand, there may be good reasons why a youth should be allowed to stay out later. If, say, he or she is out with a group of friends, then it would make sense for them to come home together, even if this may be later than usual, rather than any one of them having to journey alone at night.
Watch how you speak
       Youths who want their views to be considered seriously should think not only about what they say but how they say it. Very often, your tone of voice can make the difference between your parents treating you seriously and dismissing your feelings out of hand. Avoid sweeping statements such as “You never....” or “You always.....” Keep calm, speak quietly and whatever you do, avoid sarcasm. Same goes for parents.  Generalising about your children can be exasperating, as can assuming you always know how they tick. Nothing irritates more than false assumptions.
       Words can hurt, but then so can non-verbal expressions. Rolling eyes, tutting, smirking and sighing convey more about attitude than anything you say, so try to control your body language.
Have empathy
       Another aspect for youngsters to take on board; Mum and Dad are imperfect humans who sometimes get tired and cranky. Mums, for example, have a knack of making children feel guilty, especially when it comes to doing chores – or rather not doing them if yours is anything like a normal household. If Mum moans or nags or simply gives you that ‘Why don’t you help me wash the dishes, do I have to do everything round here?” look, try not to snap. Remarks such as, “Stop nagging/moaning/looking” at me will only add fuel to the fire. Empathise. Think. Saying something kind, such as: “I can see you’re upset Mum, I’ll do the dishes,” may initially meet with an ungracious mumble, but will certainly do much to ease the tension.
       Let’s be honest. None of us are right all of the time. So there are bound to be times when parents and children speak out of turn. A hurtful word can often bite deeper than 40 lashes (and I don’t mean the Revlon kind!) This is here humility comes in. A simple and sincere “Sorry” will do. Or, if you find it difficult to say face to face, write a little note to express your feelings.
       Throughout life, we all have to deal with difficulties and disagreements at times – with friends, colleagues, employers and other people we meet on a day to day basis. But by learning to deal with family members in a kind, considerate way, we can develop top-notch communication skills that will never let us down.


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