Breaking The Barrier
With Family

By Lorilei Alexander

                                

Yes you have reached adulthood.  You are a mature, reasonable, responsible individual with a good head on your shoulders.  You have a place of your own, you work and you pay the bills.  You may have a family of your own and consider yourself a good spouse and parent.  So why, oh why, is it that visiting relatives can leave you feeling like you are that misunderstood teenager living under your parents’ roof again?  Of course there are many of you that get along splendidly with your parents and siblings and that is a wonderful blessing.  Unfortunately, others are not so blessed.  When it comes time to get together with relatives, some of us suffer through uncomfortable small talk or even cold silence with a family member and some have terse exchanges that make for a bittersweet family gathering.  And some go back and forth between the two.  We cannot delve into all possible reasons why family relationships can be stressful.  Every family has a unique history and dynamic that would require years of psychotherapy in order to understand the ‘Why?’.  The real question that this article will attempt to address is the ‘How?’- How might my family get along better?  How might we develop a stronger family bond?

Communication is one of those words that have been used quite liberally as the key to successful relationships.  But good communication is not simply just talking to another person.  It is putting thought into what you want to say to the other person.  It is talking to the other person with compassion with the end result of developing a stronger bond with that person. Venting your frustrations, sarcasm, and making snide remarks does not qualify as good communication.  The other person may clam up or retort back, but either way, he or she will not feel comfortable opening up to you and that is often how trust is lost. 

According to an ancient Indian text, speech should have the following four qualities.  Take a moment to seek the wisdom in each of these qualities and see how similar or how different they are to your own communication style with your family.

1.  It should be beneficial to the listener (hiit)

When you offer advice to a family member, decide if the counsel you are about to offer will really make the other person’s life better.  For example, nagging them about an extravagant shopping spree might be trivial compared to talking to someone about a serious gambling addiction.  In addition, the listener needs to believe that you are really looking out for his or her best interest.

2.  It should be brief and to the point (miit)

This point does not mean that you should be curt or that your conversation should last less than sixty seconds.  It serves as a reminder that you should pause frequently in order to really listen to the other person and not unconsciously monopolize the conversation.

3.  It should be pleasant to the listener (prit)

Surprisingly, this point does not mean that all your conversations need to be all positive or what my friend has coined as ‘love and light’ discussions.  There have been many a serious and spirited exchanges between people that actually deepen the bonds of friendship because respect was fully present during the dialogue.  In addition, they had a chance to learn a lot about the other.

4.  It should be the truth (satya)

Good, open communication requires trust.  Your family members need to know that you will always speak the truth.  People can always sense if the truth is sugarcoated or that there is something that is being kept from them.  If you are not open and honest with them, they will not be open and honest with you.

There are sometimes physical barriers to connecting with family.  For instance, if your family members live in another state or country, it requires a lot more effort to maintain closeness. Stryker, singer-songwriter of Millennium states, ‘My family is spread out all over the country- Los Angeles, Boston, Tampa, Seattle, Albuquerque. Yet, I don’t want that to get in the way of keeping in touch. I think every family member has a valuable perspective to offer. I just have to go into those Skype calls with an open mind and be receptive to what they have to say. I’ve also learned to suffer minor aggravations in silence.’

Also as we grow older, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we cannot learn from our family members anymore.  Perhaps the young adult feels that there is no more wisdom that can be gleaned from their parents, perhaps the parents still look at their children as children, and perhaps the older sibling will always feel like they know more than the younger one.  It is best to keep the past in its place and treat each moment anew.  Only then will you have more than a father, more than a mother, and more than a brother or sister.  You will have a friend.

Comments

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