Our closest relationships are often, though not always, with our family. Parents, partners, spouses or kids may know you best, and want to help when times get tough. However, family relationships can also be a source of tension, especially when there is a focus on negative emotions. Creating an environment for positive communication is paramount, and can help family members express their feelings, as well as acknowledge their differences.
Below are suggestions on how to reach out to family and keep communication positive
- Listen more than you talk – your family member could be helped just by knowing someone is really listening. Don’t jump in too soon with advice, as it may prevent you from truly understanding things from the other person’s perspective
- Look for non-verbal cues – not everyone is good at telling you what they are feeling. They may say one thing, but facial expressions and body language can convey a different story. Take the time to actively listen to, and watch, all verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Don’t just focus on small talk – conversations about day to day activities and interests are important, but you can also try and dig deeper, and listen actively to get to know more about your family members
- Be direct – say what you think and feel. Take the time to explain what you are going through, and give clear examples
- Timing is key – think about when your message will be well received. Be aware the time is not always right for big conversations. Rather than getting angry or shutting someone out, you can agree on when it would be best for you both to come back to the conversation
- Appreciate your differences – you may not view life the same way as other family members and you won’t approve of all the choices they make. Make sure they know they can come to you, even when you don’t agree with them
- Try different communication strategies – as well as differences in personalities and interests, family members will have different communication styles, and it’s important to learn how each person likes to give and receive information and support
- Do what you love together – it can be hard to make time for having fun as a family. However, participating in an activity that you all enjoy can strengthen your bonds and promote future positive interactions
- Implementing strategies for positive communication with family can help foster understanding, create stronger bonds, and ensure you can support each other when things get tough
If you need advice on how best to help someone you care about, call our Step Together helpline workers on 1800 875 204, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.