Learning to communicate has been a large part of my life. In college I was a “Communications” major. Of course speech class, journalism, and classes in communicating with mass media were areas of communication where you were learning about communicating to larger audiences (potentially) in order to get your message out. Later in law school the aim of the types of communication we were learning about was more specifically about persuasiveness and more directly to an individual or small group of individuals — presenting your evidence. Much later, my communication issues revolve around relationships.
Family relationships for the most part are the ones most pressing as we have daily communication needs within the family and issues of understanding and respect, obedience and clarity, attitude and appropriateness appear regularly. These may press any family at times, especially at transitional junctures with children growing up and relationships maturing and changing as well as changes in family dynamics through additions of family members, etc.
Within our family communication has been complicated further with adoption of children who are foreign language speakers and even non-speakers (our deaf son without sign language now wears a cochlear implant and is learning ASL along with other family members as well as spoken English). As mentioned, changes in family dynamics (adding family members through adoption) add to the communication challenges as appropriate ways to communicate with each other have to be discerned. Special needs (whether or not officially diagnosed) may further complicate matters. In dealing with multiple episodes of misunderstandings and miscommunications the members of the family can get frustrated, impatient, exhausted and short-tempered. This is especially true if there are further issues making life difficult (like health issues for example). Learning to communicate well includes learning what is appropriate and expected by the other people in your family. Being sensitive to the specific needs — communication needs — of the other person is something that is necessary on an ongoing basis. Sometimes there is a very shallow understanding of the words and phrases used by children and teens (especially those who haven’t spoken English from the start) even if it sounds like they have a good grasp of the language they are using. It can also be difficult to see a child whose language understanding is perhaps 10 and their language age is around that of a 5 year old.
While we do maintain an awareness of their needs, we must also look at ourselves to see if there is anything in us that is fueling miscommunication/misunderstandings. I find I want communication to be much more forthcoming and much easier than it is. I have such big desires for all of us to communicate well that I think I sometimes sabotage the progress by trying to rush it. There needs to be a balance so that working on communication and correcting every little mistake doesn’t take it’s toll on the relationship. Learning the intricacies of a new language takes time. Learning how to communicate and relate to each other takes time. The urgency may be there, but so is the need to take it slow. Slow enough to enjoy the relationship and build it along the way.
I used to think I was a very good listener. Listening is a great was to learn how to communicate better. I want the children (and husband) to listen more! Uh-oh, looks like I had better lead the way. Listening to them might just give me insight to how to better communicate with them, and give them confidence as they “practice” on me. So I will put my cross-examination skills on the back burner and pull out the investigative reporter hat. Actually, just the mommy hat will do fine I think.