Last week, I facilitated a Healthy Family Connections group on clubhouse that led us to discuss the Top 10 Ways to Communicate. Over 20 women came into the room to listen or speak about this topic during the hour.
Many of the women requested the Top 10 Ways to Communicate Quick Sheet following this discussion. This blog will look at the 10 tips with some more communication tips.
- Model I Feel ___ when you ____ statements and I hear you say ___. When we communicate how we feel to another person it helps us to not keep those feelings inside. That can become messy later. Did you ever see what happens when a soda bottle explodes when shaken? Yes. This is exactly what can happen when we do not share how we feel. Feelings are just that-feelings that matter to you. Important to share and the other person may not know how you felt at the moment. I hear you say is another way to show that you listen. Maybe someone told you how they felt. Now you can say you heard them say they felt, for example, sad about an event, upset that they did not get picked for a sport, job. you name it.
- I notice you__. It is amazing what happens when we notice what someone is doing and say something about it. This can begin an easy conversation. For example, I notice you are playing with the toy train today and making train sounds. Do you like the train? This is an example to have a conversation with a child. How about a teen? One example might be I notice that you really enjoy spending time on the x-box playing this game. Or I notice that you really like to do your homework alone after school and then come downstairs. This can lead to a conversation with your teen.
- What are you thinking? Sometimes, it may be easier to ask children and teens, or adults, what they are thinking rather than what they are feeling. Sometimes, as one mom mentioned in our family talk the other day, it is good to ask what is on your mind rather than what you think. Try each one and see what works for you.
- Thank you for telling me how you feel. Sometimes, just listen and thank them for sharing how they felt. It depends on the topic and the age of the child. Validate what they said to you and make sure they know it is safe to share how they feel with you again and again.
- You can share whatever you want. When talking to children and youth, empower them to feel like they can share what they want. It is good to talk to them but also allows them to choose to share as much as they feel safe sharing or want to do at the moment.
- Give choices. It is important to give children and youth choices because it helps them to do this in everyday decisions. For example, for kids it can be you can sit here or in another room to share your feelings. You can write or tell me what you want to say. You can share it with me now or in an hour. It allows children to begin to feel comfortable and make decisions about when to talk and when to share.
- I want to hear what you say. It is so important to hear what children and youth have to say using our body language to show we are present as well as with our listening. We can be off of our phone, the computer, or looking at them as they speak. After they speak, we repeat back what they said so they know they are seen, heard, and valued.
- Show me how you feel. For young children, they may need a visual tool to point to that will help them express how they are feeling. A simple chart with real pictures of the child or pictures online of facial expressions can be used. There are many helpful emotion tool charts available today. For school-age children, it may be them showing how they feel in numbers or an age-appropriate chart that may be used on an iPad or on the phone. Teens can share how they feel using their words or perhaps they might want to do a comic strip that illustrates their day or week depending on the topic or age. You know the teen or child best and some things may work better for one child and not the other.
- Pause before speaking. After a child expresses their emotions, small or big, give a 5-second pause. This helps you really digest what was heard and allow time to respond in a healthy manner. For example, if you hear your child or teen say something that was hard to hear, it may help you take a breath and ask another question or respond in a way that will allow them to hear what you have to say.
- Notice non-verbal cues. It is so helpful to not only hear what children and teens say but also hear what they do not say to you. What they do not say to you is in their body cues. Examples include how they are sitting, where they are sitting, their body posture, the tone of their words, and their eye contact. Again, eye contact may vary based on family culture and neurodiversity but it is something to consider if your child or teen usually looks at you. Take the time to notice if their pace of words is quick or slower or they seem nervous to share. Be sure to match where they are at. If they are sitting down, you can sit down. If they are on the ground, you can get on the ground. Meet them on a heart-to-heart level to connect.
A short version of the 10 Ways to Communicate is available upon request.