When it comes to family conflict, the one phrase I think I hear the most is “We just don’t communicate”. I hear it at my job, on TV, on the radio, and from people I know. The funny thing is that we are always communicating. What are we doing it well enough to keep our family going in a good direction? That’s what we’re here to talk about.
When someone says “we aren’t communicating”, they probably mean that family members don’t understand each other well. People are communicating all right, but usually in distracted unproductive ways. People often give the silent treatment, yell out of intense emotional reaction, ignore, fling insults at each other, nag, play “poor me “games, criticize, whine – can you think of more?
When family members do these bad things, they are communicating their emotions very strongly. Even a small child could pick up emotional cues like these with pretty good accuracy. What’s missing is logical thought and the desire to understand the other person. That’s the key to resolving the conflict.
No doubt, emotions are important. In fact, they may be the main reason a conflict exists between certain family members. However, emotions make bad CEOs. When left in charge, they often run people ragged and create chaos. In my opinion, God gave human beings rational thought for this very reason – we sometimes just refuse to use it!
So the challenge becomes accurately labeling and admitting to your current emotion while not flinging hot daggers at the other person. When they truly seem to understand where you’re coming from, there’s a good chance your emotions will settle. When a human being doesn’t feel understood, he or she can feel lonely and isolated. That’s all we really want from other people — knowing someone else understands us.
The point of communication is not to damage, but to create understanding. If you feel a strong urge to damage people in your family because of your emotions, then it may be time to seek some help.
Just learning better communication skills may not be enough. You may have deep resentment from your past, depression, maybe even in addiction. If this sounds like you or someone in your family, please consider talking to a professional counselor or psychologist. When the underlying problem can be properly addressed, good communication skills will be much more effective.
If it means you need to walk out of the room for a moment to collect your thoughts, do it. But promised the other person, you will come back shortly. If you don’t, it may look like you are abandoning them in whatever you need to communicate about. Not only should you collect your thoughts, but look for signs that your emotions are settling down.
Take note of your heart rate, tension in your body, your breathing, and especially the muscles in your face. When you feel a noticeable calming change, you are probably ready to go back and start talking. Do this on a regular basis, and you won’t have to say “we just don’t communicate”.