Many couple or family problems have their origin in the clumsiness to listen to the other, which prevents understanding and feeds the discomfort. How to correct it?
Family life could be compared to an iceberg most people are only aware of one tenth of what is happening, one tenth that they can see and hear. Some suspect that there may be something else, but do not know what or how to find out.
In other words, “what’s going on under the table?” Wrote Virgina Satir, a pioneer in communication and family therapy. Answering that question is not easy. It requires assuming from the outset that we ignore many things about those who live with us.
Taking care of the communication that is established with the most loved ones is the only way to put light under the table. It is also the basis of any relationship, the valuable bridge that allows you to understand the other and truly share something with him.
UNDERSTAND THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE OTHER
” The three most important rules to overcome communication problems, both within the family and outside of it, are listening, listening and listening. If I do not listen, no matter how interesting my speech is, no matter how well I explain it, it will not be. A dialogue is possible and what he says will not really reach the other.
Communication implies an exchange: there is information that goes and another that comes. An easy way to know if we are listening is to spend at least half the time listening. If the time to speak does not equal the time to listen, it is a sign of isolation “, says Marcel Genestar, specialist in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
How many times, in a couple’s discussion, no matter how long you spend talking about a topic, no agreement is reached? This indicates a lack of communication, and is usually due to the fact that neither listens by putting themselves in the place of the other, opening themselves up to the possibility of being influenced, of giving ground, of reviewing their vision of things and thus getting closer to understanding the perspective of their partner.
“It is important to make an effort to listen to what the other is really telling us and not fall into the temptation of simply listening to what we already supposed or wanted to hear.”, Javier Muro recommends.
“In the couple, one easily enters the dynamic of listening to the other with the intention of confirming beliefs about him, beliefs that isolate each other. To break this isolation, it is necessary to make an effort to enter the inner world of the couple, leaving aside one’s own and putting aside the reproaches “, specifies Javier Muro, director of a work system called” The corporal “.
To get out of the dynamics of continuous reproach we can practice this exercise:
- For ten minutes, one member of the couple performs all the reproaches that the other needs, while the other listens to them in silence without the possibility of replying or gesturing.
- After that time the roles are reversed.
- Then the two get up and no longer talk about the matter.
WHAT ATTITUDES HINDER COMMUNICATION?
Making judgments, being on the defensive, thinking about the reply that is going to be given or the solution that is going to be offered are ways of favoring solitary confinement.
- Take for granted that the other can know what you feel or think without having expressed it.
- Being too aware of falling down well and avoiding confrontation.
- Change the subject or joke when the other tries to express themselves.
- Being angry or being critical or self-pitying decreases your ability to listen.
- Have the habit of comparing or comparing yourself.
- Strive to offer advice and solutions when the other is expressing a problem. Often, they are looking more for a shoulder to lean on or cry on, a person to accompany, allow them to vent or clarify ideas than a plan to solve a problem.
- Ignore that family ties change (when a new member enters the family, a child enters adolescence or leaves home).
- Tacitly forbidding comments in the family is one way to develop self-conscious people.
TALKING WITH THE CHILDREN: ACCOMPANYING INSTEAD OF COMMANDING
American psychologists Matthew McKay, Martha Davis and Patrick Fanning, authors of Messages: The Communication Skills Book (Ed. RCR), affirm that authentic listening has one of four intentions:
- Understand the other.
- Enjoy with him.
- Learn something from him.
- Help or comfort him.
One of the main obstacles for parents to listen to their children without preconceived ideas is that they dedicate a good part of their communication to reprimanding them or dictating rules of conduct.
But, if the children are not listened to, it is difficult for them to learn to listen in turn. And they likely don’t feel respected or valued.
” The word educate comes from the Latin ‘educo’, which means to accompany, to be by the side. It is not about being a friend of the children, because as the Juvenile Judge of Granada, Emilio Calatayud assures, ‘if first of all you are a friend of your son, then he becomes an orphan. ‘It is about worrying about how they feel, asking them for their opinion, talking to them about how we feel, asking for excuses when we are wrong. In order for them to recognize us, we have to recognize them, “says Marcel Genestar.
If you cannot attend to them when they claim it and they are asked to wait, it is convenient afterwards to thank them for the gesture they have made while waiting.
The psychologist Neus Figueras adds: “Just as the mother listens to the cry of the baby struggling to decipher its meaning, one must listen wondering: ‘ what does he mean by this? ‘ That effort is received by the child as a caress, as a form of love that is important to continue offering throughout their growth, and to offer it also in communication with adults.
” Between parents and children there should not be taboo topics. Moreover, it is advisable to have conversations about drugs, sex, etc. rather than be silent. If when a child asks, we extend ourselves to give an explanation, then he is being stimulated at a cognitive level and motivating so that they develop their curiosity, which is a form of joy. Through dialogue the child is given identity, security, self-esteem and affection so that they feel that they are part of the group. Thus, their entry into life is facilitated.
In a creative family the rules are flexible and subject to change. These changes help no one to be pigeonholed and make the relationship with society more fluid.
WHAT IS NOT SAID IS ALSO IMPORTANT
Communicating really can be a pending challenge, both in the family and in the couple. “As important as communicating it is to do it responds to a desire, not a duty How many times in the couple one ends up berating the other. ‘You’re not telling me anything, do not talk”. Defeating involves incommunicado in turn respect the desire of the other not to express himself.
That respect is a bridge to understanding because we also express ourselves through silence. Admitting the silence of the other without acrimony can represent an important change in the quality of family communication, “says Javier Muro.
It also depends on a gesture, a look, a body posture, a caress, a tone of voice. Everything can become a gesture of love that reinforces the bond, a living bond that changes and that we learn to enrich every day. Eye contact will facilitate family communication.
EXERCISES TO PROMOTE FAMILY COMMUNICATION
The following exercises may be helpful:
Spending a few days observing the type of communication that is maintained with the children, the partner or the parents, even putting on a tape recorder, broadens the awareness about the most common messages that are emitted, as well as about the tone and attitude that accompany them.
Spend some time simply observing the way in which one communicates and establishes dialogue with the family, analyzing what type of information is exchanged (stories, orders, accusations, complaints, feelings, trivia), what tone is used and what time is devoted to it without entering into blame will help to detect the root cause of the lack of communication.
WHAT CHARACTER DO I EMBODY?
There are four characters that summarize the way of communicating:
- the one who accuses or blames, implying that he commands (with his tone he comes to say “you never do anything right”).
- the placatory, who agrees with everything;
- the super-reasonable, who seems calm, cold, and unflappable;
- and the irrelevant, which implies that their contribution is never important or meaningful.
It is convenient to reflect with which character one identifies the most.
PROPOSE A DIALOGUE
By choosing a good time and a comfortable space, the family is invited to discuss a matter of concern and in which each one has their turn to express themselves, but without being obliged to participate. It is convenient to ask open questions.
Starting by tackling trivial topics and gradually entering other more important ones is a good option, especially when talking with children and adolescents. This prevents them from hiding or feeling subject to third-degree questioning.
OPEN UP TO THE TRUTH
Wondering what need one has not dared to express to his family and rephrasing criticism and complaints into specific requests helps foster more satisfying relationships.
Learning to be more and more explicit and sincere with your own feelings generates more authentic relationships and encourages others to do the same. It is basically about daring to expose the needs in the first person.
For example ” I need you to take care of me; sometimes I find myself very lonely.” It is useful to conclude with expressions such as: ” I want you to know my feelings to ask you”, ” I would beg you to help me “.
To do this, it is convenient to base the message on phrases that begin with “I” and not with “you.”
The most common fears in the family are of the type: I could be wrong, I could annoy, they will criticize me, they will think that I am useless, he or she could move away. It is healthy to consider facing them.
It is convenient to overcome the fear of showing emotions such as anger or sadness because this gives the children and the rest of the family permission to do so as well.
FEELINGS IN WORDS
Starting a new family dynamic in that direction – melting part of the iceberg that Virgina Satir spoke of – is as complicated and as simple as someone daring to break the ice by expressing how they feel.
Almost by magic, the rest will be invited to also explain what concerns them, without the need for questioning and with a model that will serve as a guide.