Communication In The Family

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Communication In The Family
Communication In The Family

Communication in the family

“The apartment looks sloppy.” Simple sentence - multiple effects. How would you understand this sentence if it came from your loved one? A fact, a reproach, a refreshing commitment to chaos or an invitation to clean up?

There are many ways of literally getting something down the "wrong neck". To get to the bottom of this phenomenon, an excursion into communication theory pays off.


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  • What is communication
  • What is said is not always what is heard
  • How do I package messages well?
  • Keep your ears open - active listening
  • "I'll tell you a story …"

What is communication

Communicating refers to the exchange of messages between at least two people. There is a sender (transmits message) and a recipient (receives message). The reaction of the recipient shows how and whether the message was understood. However, people communicate with one another not only through language (verbal communication), but also through body language, tone of voice or behavior (non-verbal communication). The well-known psychotherapist and communication scientist Paul Watzlawick quoted: “You cannot not communicate.” That means, silence is also a message (eg: “I need rest now”). So it is impossible not to “say” anything - facial expressions, gestures and behavior constantly convey messages - with or without spoken words.

What is said is not always what is heard

Another aspect of communication is the so-called exemplary "four-ears model". As a result, there are symbolically four ears with which a person hears - depending on the respective access:

  • Relationship ear: Concentration on emotional content or taking something “personally”.
  • Self-revelation ear: Assumption that the sender says something, expresses itself through its message and thus reveals something about its state of health. For example, also in relation to feelings - whether s / he is angry.
  • Appeal ear: Hear a request or a request from the other person.
  • Sachohr: This "ear" draws attention to facts and factual levels (including logical connections).

In this model, the speaker also moves on four levels, which can relate to the content, self-disclosure, relationship or appeal of a message. On the content level, factual information is conveyed, on the relationship level, depending on the expression, emotional messages (e.g. anger).

From these models it is easy to see that communicating with one another is not an easy matter. If the “ear” and the communication level of the “sender” do not match, misunderstandings are often inevitable. Keeping an eye on one's own familiar communication patterns enables a critical examination of them. Every now and then - also together - think about which "ears" or "transmission patterns" prevail in you and which alternative expressions or perceptions there are. You can also take advantage of professional support: e.g. high-quality communication training.

How do I package messages well?

Which reactions a message conveys depends, among other things, on whether it is congruent (coherent). A congruent message matches what is said, tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures and is not contradictory. For example, if someone says, "I'm very happy", but the tone sounds sad, it doesn't seem very convincing. Congruent, clear messages are also helpful in matters of parenting - especially for small children who find it confusing when, for example, the pitch of the voice and what is being said do not match. Children are more likely to accept coherent messages and feel that they are being taken seriously.

Another point of view in communication are the so-called I and you messages. I-messages reflect your personal view and your own feelings from the first-person perspective, eg: “I have to concentrate right now and I need rest.” On the other hand, you messages are aimed at you, eg: “You are disturbing now. Can't you see that I need rest?”It may not have been the (conscious) intention of the other person to disturb you. You messages carry the risk of accusation, generalization and devaluation. They also often miss their target and contribute little to constructive conflict resolution. Not only criticism - also positive things such as recognition or praise - often reaches the other person better packed in I-messages. You should not always follow these theoretical principles of communication 1: 1,because certain sentences in first-person form can sound very unnatural. In the end, it depends on the content and how it is transmitted (neutral, reproachful, accusing, praising, etc.). Sometimes it just pays to think about how you want to formulate a sentence.

Keep your ears open - active listening

Has it ever happened to you like this: You wanted to tell something and couldn't get past the first sentence, because it already provokes an intense backlash and a torrent of words in the other person? In families, too, it happens that listening is not a matter of course - especially when it comes to sensitive topics that can be unpleasant and may already have a history (e.g. bad grades). Whether a child or an adult, if interest is signaled or listened to, a real exchange of experiences, thoughts and feelings is easier.

A short summary of what the other person said before (eg: I have now understood that to mean that …) testifies to active, committed listening. It is particularly pleasant to come up with an idea or a solution by speaking. In the case of children, of course, this depends on personal development. However, this does not rule out that options are also worked out together or that tips are welcome.

I'll tell you a story …

Children like to listen when their parents tell stories from their childhood. However, exciting stories usually arise spontaneously, and the youngsters prefer to listen when the stories are not stories with an “index finger effect” but rather “lively” ones (eg: “I once felt the same way…”).

Bedtime stories are also a nice ritual for going to bed. Among other things, real scenes and messages can be packaged in these skilfully and excitingly or they can be designed together (alternative ending, etc.). In the meantime there are also special fairy tale and story books for occasions (e.g. before a doctor's visit) or for problems (e.g. fears). With these you should pay attention to the qualification of the author and of course take into account the individual needs of your child.

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