We all want to be heard. And we all want to be understood. It’s gratifying, empowering, and makes us feel valued.

In the home environment, when you trying to ensure your family members follow your instructions or simply listen to you try and explain yourself, no matter how hard you try, it seems that no one gets it. Then we make efforts to force people to appreciate us, defending our case over and over, which can simply create negativity and make the situation more incomprehensible. Angers flare, voices get raised and tempers erupt.

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1. It’s not just talking: People often confuse communication for talking or making conversation, and this is the root cause of why many of these same people are so unsuccessful when it comes to how to communicate better. Communication in relationships, at its core, is about connecting and using your verbal, written and physical skills to fulfill your partner’s needs. It’s not about making small talk. It’s about understanding your partner’s point of view, offering support and letting your partner know that you are their biggest fan.

Communication allows us to voice our basic needs to others and also provides opportunities to approach topics like sex and romance, stress management, and conflict resolution.

2. Communication starts with the ability to listen: Do not confuse listening with hearing. You can hear something but not be listening: “ In one ear, out the other.” To listen you must be thinking. Listening is an active, not passive activity.

Effective listening involves receiving information accurately. The listener is responsible for ensuring that their perception of the information or message is correct. The listener should respond to the speaker by constantly giving feedback to ensure that they have heard correctly. Good listeners are interested in the whole message, working hard at listening and summarising and rephrasing the speaker’s information to confirm that is being received correctly.

[How to get your child to listen]

Ways to sharpen listening skills

  1. Be prepared – Ensure that anything you might need for your conversation is with you. This clears your mind and prepares you for anything. (e.g. have a pen and notepad)
  2. Concentrate – Pay full attention to your partner/child. Eliminate all distractions. Focus on their problem. Just be there.
  1. Questions – Ask relevant questions pertaining to their problem.
  1. Use conversation cues – Show that you are listening, using phrases like: ”I see, I understand…”
  1. Read between the lines – Like with body language, the person’s tone gives you hints about how he/she is feeling or thinking.

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3. It’s about the little things that add up to the big things: It’s crucial to a relationship — but it’s also a really easy thing to tweak. So don’t be stressed if you feel like you’re not communicating properly. Because the thing about communication that you need to remember is that it’s the little things that make a huge difference. Yes, it’s really important to be able to disagree and fight well. In fact, being able to fight in a compassionate way can save a relationship. But if your daily communication skills are on point, then actually those big conversations aren’t so scary. Because you know you have the skills to reach each other and you do it before any issue gets out of control.

4. Find the right time: If something is bothering you and you would like to have a conversation about it, it can be helpful to find the right time to talk. Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed or in a rush. You might even consider scheduling a time to talk if one or both of you is really busy!

5. Talk face to face with your partner/child: Avoid talking about serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters and emails can be misinterpreted. Talk in person so there aren’t any unnecessary miscommunications. If you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts, consider writing them down ahead of time and reading them out loud to your partner.

6. Set limits and expectations: Establishing limits and consequences is usually a more practical and effective way to be heard than attempting to gain agreement. At home, if getting your point across with your teenager means gaining agreement, you will almost never succeed. However, you can set limits and expectations. For example, “I hear you when you say that your friends can stay out until midnight. Nevertheless, you have to be home by 11:00.” “But, Mom! …”

“I realize this seems hard to you. But I expect you to be home by 11:00.”

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7. Don’t Nitpick: Little digs can build up. If you have a problem, say it. Don’t make little commends — they’re immature and they will slowly corrode your relationship.

8. Show empathy: One thing that we all seem to miss the point on is recognising when a partner or child expresses their feelings to us. We need to be more aware of when they do and recognise it! Use phrases like, “I understand, I know where you’re coming from, I’ve been in that situation myself, I appreciate that”

Another way to show empathy is acknowledge emotions and then acknowledge the actual need. Identify the emotion person may be feeling first, before going into solution mode!
Example: “I had a terrible day at school/work, so-and-so was so mean to me when I tried to help them.”
Empathy shown: “I can understand how disappointed you would feel when you’ve tried to help someone and they responded in such a negative way, I would have also appreciated a simple ‘Thank you’, I recommend that you remember that they might be going through something that you aren’t aware of, so you should still be kind to them.”

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9. Get your point across effectively: The use of “I Statements”. These are broken down into three sections.

  1. When you do/show/be…..
  2. I feel like…
  3. And what I would like is that next time you….

When you are late for dinner, I feel like you are not trying to be a team player, and what I’d like is that you make an effort to come in half an hour earlier.

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10. If your partner is reaching out to you, be there to meet them:  Couples try to get each other’s attention throughout the day, whether it’s for support, conversation, interest, play, affirmation, feeling connected or for affection. Each of these moments is an opportunity to connect with your partner. A person should look for someone who responds to them, or at least acknowledges them when they try to get their attention because it shows that they are meeting your emotional needs —or at least trying to. Whether it’s just talking about their day or trying to discuss big issues, recognize that they’re reaching out and meet them.

Read our next blog post: Getting Children to do Chores