Thursday, January 27, 2011

SKILL DAY: How do YOU communicate?

This may seem like a strange question. If you read Monday's entry, you saw that I told you about four different modes of communicating:

with words and sounds (verbal/vocal; talking)
with words and no sounds (verbal/nonvocal; sign language)
with no words and sounds (nonverbal/vocal; tone of voice, volume, etc.)
with no words and no sounds (nonverbal/nonvocal; raised eyebrows, gestures, etc.)

On today's Skill Day, I want to focus on having you think about the ways you communicate. When visiting my mother last summer I realized I sigh...a lot. And I know exactly where I learned it! She sighs a lot, too. It frustrated me when she did it (sorry, Mom!). At that point I realized that while I'm usually sighing to try to "center" my thoughts, it may frustrate those around me. And that's NEVER my goal. Now, I'll be honest. I still sigh. I try to do it quieter now, though, and less frequently.

My dear husband has also helped me to see the ways I communicate that I'm sometimes oblivious to. For instance, sometimes when we are on the phone, the kids need my attention. You know what I'm talking about, right? He'll let me know, with love, that I'm not giving him my full attention. In communication lingo - I'm communicating in a way that I didn't realize. I love it when he does this because that's an opportunity for me to make changes! If I don't realize I'm doing something, I can't change it.

Skill4U: So, how do YOU communicate? Pay attention this week to what you are saying...and not saying. Maybe ask your spouse to help you tune in to your nonverbal communication (tone of voice, eye contact, etc.). By being more tuned in, we can communicate what we really mean to communicate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Many Ways We Communicate

For some reason, this is always a fun topic when I teach this. I think it's because we communicate in so many ways that most of us are unaware of. You see where this week's blog entries are going, right?

Some famous researchers (Watzlavick, Beavin, and Jackson for those keeping track!) once said that we "cannot not communicate". Think about that for a minute. If you walk into a room...even if you say are communicating to those present. The clothes you wear, how you smell, how you enter the room, the look on your face...all communicate something.

Let's take a minute and look at the different modes of communicating (whether intentional or not). Communication occurs in combinations of two mediums - verbal/nonverbal and vocal/nonvocal.
The verbal medium deals with words. Anything we communicate with words is verbal.
The vocal medium deals with using our voice. Here are the four modes broken down:

Verbal-Vocal: You got it! This one denotes talking. Any time we say something to someone we are using this mode of communication. This mode is most easily understood as communication.

Verbal-Nonvocal: This is when we use words but no voice. American Sign Language is the best example of this.

Nonverbal-Vocal: We use this when we are not using words, but we are using our voice. We may not always recognize this as communication, but at the same time we know when someone else does this. If your husband comes into the room and heaves a great S-I-G-H, you know something is going on...though he didn't say a word. Other examples include crying, screaming (without words, of course), humming, tone of voice, volume of speech, rate of speech, and 'huffing and puffing'.

Nonverbal-Nonvocal: This category is huge! I'll be coming back to this in much greater detail in future posts. For now, it's important to know that this includes appearance, smell, eye contact, proximtiy, issues of territory, and touch.

The wonderful world of interpersonal communication informs our understanding in so many ways.
By knowing the ways we communicate, we can better tune in to our loved ones and monitor our own communication to 'say' what we really mean. More on that on Thursday!

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Skills Day: Theory into Practice

On Monday I wrote about the ways that communication is important to our families. Perhaps you read it and now have some new insights into your everyday communication.
Today I want to give you some ways to practice that communication.

  • Spend some time thinking and praying about what your family means to you. Are they friends? Are they "just" family...or is family "everything" to you? Some people feel that whether they like their family or not is irrelevant because family is forever. Others feel that their family is all the people they have a close relationship with, whether they are blood relatives or not.
  • Once you know what family means to you, take a look at what you say TO your family members and ABOUT your family memebers. Is what you say consistent with how you feel about your family?
  • If it is consistent, that's great! Keep up the good work. If the way you feel about your family and the way you talk to/about them isn't consistent then it's time for some changes.
    • You can begin those changes by thinking before you speak. We've all heard this before, but so few of us really do this. Sometimes we don't need to say how we feel. Perhaps we should let negative feelings be still for a bit before we 'spew' them all over someone. Often, I find time solves many of the trifling issues that seem so big in the moment.
    • If you decide an issue is 'big' enough to discuss, go right to the person with whom you have an issue. This is really important. Talking with everyone else won't solve the problem...because those people aren't the problem! Go to the source directly. I'll discuss in future posts the ins and outs of conflict management.
I hope today you have some ideas for how to identify and demonstrate your true feelings about family!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Communication: What’s the Big Deal?

If you’ve picked up any magazine in the last decade, you likely saw an article about communication. For many, it seems to be a buzzword that gets thrown around quite easily. I often read that families (spouses, in particular) should “communicate better”. Yet the role of communication in families is often implied…as if we all understand the role that communication plays in our lives.

From a family perspective, there are three ways that communication impacts our relationships:

  • Communication serves to constitute as well as reflect family relationships. This means that we use communication to create and maintain our relationships. This one is easy. Most of us know the frustration of trying to maintain a relationship with someone who won’t talk to us. It feels impossible!! Yet, the things we say about our family also tells us how we see those relationships. Let’s say I am griping about my brother to my mom. I say all kinds of nasty things about him. Yet, if someone asks me about my brother I might say we get along fine. But, the specifics I told my mom would really reflect the true feelings I have about my relationship with my brother. This kind of communication is fun to pay attention to!
  • Communication is the process by which family members create and share their meanings with each other. Growing up in my family, we called armpits ‘gapes’. I’m honestly not sure why. I can guess, but was never told. We just always called them gapes. And my sisters and I all think it’s a funny word. My husband’s family simply called them armpits. However, since he doesn’t see any harm in our silly family name for this body part, he goes along with calling them gapes with our sons. And they love it! They think it’s silly, too. So, in my family of origin, we had a word with meaning that we shared just in our family. It bonded us together in a good way. I bet your family has some special names or meanings, too. I’d love to hear about them!
  • Families are part of multigenerational, cultural communication patterns. This is one of my favorite concepts to teach freshmen at college because they insist they don’t have any cultural background. They are always wrong, though! Our cultural background can come from long ago family (my great grandfather is from Poland), to religious beliefs (born and raised Catholic, but more active Christian now), to regional differences (born in the northeast, while spending adult life in the south). All of those factors and more contribute to who we are as individuals. We each bring those differences to our marriage and future family. So, each of us is the product of generations of beliefs all shared through communication. We then form new family cultures when we merge our individual family cultures together. I think that’s a fascinating concept!
Q4U: So, now you know that communication helps us to create and tell others about our family, it helps us create meaning in our family, and it is the result of generations of cultural elements. How do you see these ideas lived out in your current family?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year

Yes, I'm a bit late in offering New Year wishes. My youngest was just asking today if he can still tell people "Happy New Year". Of course, my answer was yes!

By this time, the rush to find 'resolutions' has passed...I hope. Now we've settled into the new year and are back to our routine. This is a great time, however, to establish some new routines in your marriage.

I know how hard it is to have a date. My DH works nights and sleeps during the day. This makes weekend date nights hard to come by. Knowing how important dates are, though, we've started implementing "at home dates". During these times we turn off the TV and focus on each other. Sometimes this just means getting caught up on the everday issues that have been lost due to our busy schedules. Sometimes it means planning (goals, finances, etc). Sometimes it means a back porch candlelight dinner. Sometimes it just means laughing and being silly. The important part is the time together.

So, I encourage you to find some time to be with your spouse each month. I'm not going to be unrealistic and expect this will happen weekly for you. It certainly doesn't for US! Get creative, though, and find some time for just the two of you. You'll be amazed how much this brings new life to your wintertime marriage.