Family Communication

Cindy Jobs Health and Well-Being, Organization, Uncategorized

Communication (from Latin commūnicāre, meaning “to share”[1]) is the act of conveying intended meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules. Wikipedia

The word that sticks out the most in this definition to me is “intended.”

I had dinner recently with my mom, my siblings, and our spouses.  There was laughter, reminiscing, and story-telling.  It was a hoot!  As I was watching the interaction, I marveled at how easily we all communicated with each other.

  • We had a communication shorthand based on shared experiences.
  • We were not rushed, we took the time to let conversations play out.
  • We showed each other respect (no swearing, no talking down, no talking over, etc.)

That night the communication was easy.  But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes the most difficult conversations I have is within my own family:  siblings, husband, kids, nieces/nephews.

Why is that?  Just to name a few of the disconnects I’ve encountered:

  • Families sometimes develop communication “shorthand,” and sometimes that shorthand doesn’t serve us well.
  • Because we grew up together, we think the other person automatically understands our perspective.
  • Different generations have different communication styles and expectations.
  • Because they we love them, we may not be as diplomatic with our family as we are with others.

Shorthand:

You know how sometimes you can just look at someone and you absolutely “get” where they are coming from?  How frequently do you finish their sentence when talking to someone you are deeply familiar with?  How many times have you only had to use a few words to convey a message to someone you are around a lot? Although shorthand can be beneficial it can also be a huge stumbling block if it’s misinterpreted.

Funny story: One of the first disconnects my husband (of nearly 23 years) and I had was about cherry pie vs apple pie. It sounds petty, but it was pretty significant at the time.  So, whenever we encounter what appears to be a challenging situation, one of us will invariably ask “is this a cherry pie moment?”  Each of us knows exactly what the phrase means.

Perspective:

Just because we had similar life experiences and perspectives as kids, doesn’t mean we will share the same perspective as adults.  I moved away from the area where I grew up.  Because of that, I’ve experienced things as an adult that my siblings haven’t; my siblings have experienced that I haven’t.  That’s what happens.   That’s life.  Although we were raised experiencing the same things, we are not the same.  Those dis-similar life experiences change our perspectives.

Styles and Expectations:

I’m a baby-boomer.  I am a verbal processor.  I love to talk.  I like to text.  I over-communicate via e-mail.  I write letters.  I return EVERYONE’s phone calls.  If someone sends me a text, I try to get right back to them.  If someone leaves me a voicemail, I call them right back.  I send “thank you” notes.

Fortunately, my husband and I have similar communication styles.  Some of my other family members, not so much.  It’s not because they don’t love me (I assume they do), it’s that we communicate differently.

I’ve many times left a voicemail with a niece or nephew saying something like “I need to talk to you about Grandma, please give me a call back” and received a text a few days later saying “I saw you called.  What do you need?”

First, for you to call me as I requested.

Second, I would have expected you to call sometime within a 48-hours. (Snarky, I know!)

We have different styles and different expectations which sometimes causes underlying frustration.

Diplomacy

Why is it that we are sometimes the least diplomatic with the ones we care the most about?  I’ve seen people who deeply love each other be sharp-toned, rude, unkind, sarcastic, etc.  When asked about it, they will say “oh, they know I love them and I’m not serious.”  Well, do they?  Are you acting as if you do? Would you treat people outside your family like that?

Communication is a constant in our lives.  It’s how we stay connected. Our families are precious to us.  How can we manage our communication with them that ensures they know how much they mean to us? Let’s make sure we are communicating with them in such a way that they know that.

 

Cindy Jobs, COC, ACC

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