Communication in Families
“People have important things to communicate. Speaking from your heart allows the emotionally difficult, the ordinary, and the wonderful things in our lives to be communicated and received” (David McArthur and Bruce McArthur). Communication for my family has not always been easy, in fact at times it has been inexistent. Nevertheless, my family has been able to overcome the roadblocks against successful communication. We listen, keep an open heart and allow each other to have their own opinion which essentially means we effectively communicate. In this paper I will identify communication patterns/roles in families, explain the influence of family upbringing and examples of successful and unsuccessful family communication. I will also identify how and why family communication can fail and how family communication can be improved and broken families restored.
Communication patterns/roles in families
“Families repeat themselves within and across generations. Members become caught up in predictable, but often unexamined, life patterns, which are created in part through their interactions with others” (Kathleen Gavin). My family has followed this predictable pattern for many generations. We have remained a traditional Catholic family, like the other generations of our family that came before us. The fact that we were raised in a traditional Catholic environment suggests that our life experiences are guided accordingly by that same tradition. Thus, the pattern of the lives of the members of our family becomes quite predictable.
For instance, we always expect our father to do much of the work for the family, earning enough a wages in order for us to survive. On the other hand, our mother is presumed to take the role of rearing us and of taking care of the household chores with our help as siblings in the family. Also, the manner in which we communicate in the family is deeply rooted in the same Catholic tradition; our father, being the head or patriarch of the household, is the one who leads every conversation in the family. He also tells us what not to talk about and many other things that we should keep to ourselves instead.
Being good children of our parents, we always see to it that we follow the orders of our father and mother lest they give us some form of punishment, though not necessarily in the physical sense, especially when my brother and I were still very young. Through it all, I can say that even though we have repeated that life pattern—which we most probably have obtained from the earlier generations in our family—we have come to a point to reexamine ourselves. We see to it that we do not stick to tradition for the sake of preserving our tradition. More importantly, our family has learned to modify some of our traditions which seem to appear already obsolete in these modern times. The good sides of our life patterns, however, are preserved in our family, such as the respect that we give to our elders in conversations.
Influence of family upbringing
The ways in which the members of the family are raised have an effect on family’s communication. The expectations of each family member also influence communication among family members, from simple conversations to serious talks. For example, if children are raised in such a way that they fear their parents, it is likely the case that these children “will hardly initiate a conversation with their parents” (Zabriskie and McCormick, p. 283). Out of fear, these children may prefer to remain silent instead.
On the other hand, if every member of the family expects each one of them to participate in lively conversations, it is likely the case that they will encourage each one of them to speak-up their ideas, beliefs or comments on whatever topic it is that they want to talk about without the fear of being punished by their parents or elders.
In essence, a family that is raised in an environment where communication is normal and healthy is a family that more likely to understand one another regardless of linguistic barriers. For example, even though our parents are Hispanic and German, we are still able to communicate. Parts of the reason to that are the facts that our parents always encourage us to communicate with one another and that they also guide us with the proper etiquette when conversing with one another.
Examples of successful and unsuccessful family communication
One example of a successful communication in the family is when children respond to the questions of their parents. Another example is when parents actually listen to what their children have to say regardless of whether or not the parents themselves initiated the conversation.
On the other hand, an example of an unsuccessful communication is when parents try to inhibit their children from talking when they have something to say. That is especially true when parents are either busy or not interested to listen to their kids. Another example is when parents fail to respond to the questions of their kids, whether intentionally or otherwise. The effect is that communication only becomes one-way which essentially is not a good and effective form of communication.
How and why communication can fail
Communication in the family can fail if each member of the household wants only to talk without listening to others or when each of them wants only to listen without even sharing their own stories or experiences in a conversation. In effect, they will not be able to understand one another better, an attribute which is important to have a good and functioning family.
Communication within the family can also be lessened to a certain extent by linguistic barriers. Our parents, for instance, are Hispanic and German. Thus, language in itself becomes a barrier in communication among us although we try to speak in a common language as often as possible.
On the other hand, a successful communication in the family is one where each member regardless of age or position in the family is able to talk and listen to the other members of the family. The willingness to listen to what others have to say and the eagerness to share and express one’s ideas to others are two crucial factors that determine the success and efficiency in communication within the family.
How family communication can be improved and broken families restored
Family communication can be improved in at least two ways: one is through tolerance and two is through respect. The first factor, tolerance, means having the capacity to allow other members of the family to either talk or listen. It entails the willingness to engage others in a healthy conversation without limiting what others can say so long as there are proper ethics and conduct. The second factor, respect, means not interrupting other members of the family when they are conversing to the other members or the entire family. It also means valuing the statements of other members of the family in all sincerity and honesty. Since respect begets respect, communication in the family can become better if each family member learns to appreciate the purpose and uses of communicating with one another.
With that in mind, broken families can be restored through open communication among its members, especially between the parents. Family problems can be resolved if there is a transparent and sincere communication among the members of the family since “communication breaks barriers and paves the way for understanding one another and the circumstances of the problem much better” (Cohan and Kleinbaum, p. 186). Apparently, poor communication or the lack thereof will most likely create a gap among the family members, making one another’s feelings unmentionable and, therefore, unknowable. Thus, in order to restore broken families, there should first be an open communication. Only then can the members of the family freely discuss their family problems and seek a solution to their troubles.
Cohan, Catherine L., and Stacey Kleinbaum. “Toward a Greater Understanding of the Cohabitation Effect: Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Communication.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 64.1 (2002): 180-92.
Zabriskie, Ramon B., and Bryan P. McCormick. “The Influences of Family Leisure Patterns on Perceptions of Family Functioning.” Family Relations 50.3 (2001): 281-89.