Posts Tagged ‘communication’

The Emotional Connection between Speaking and Listening

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 @ 12:06 PM
Author: admin

the-emotional-connection-between-speaking-and-listeningEven without a caption, we can infer that the dad in this photo clearly wants his son to listen. This graphic explodes with emotion. Negative energy stirs within ourselves as we look at it. It awakens memories of similar conversations where emotion overwhelmed reason. We can hear our own personal “inner” soundtrack replaying the audio from our own experiences.

When yelling occurs, it supersedes communicating. Both persons involved in the “conversation” feel overwhelmed, angry and “injured” to some degree. Neither is listening. Resentment and anger amplify; each person focuses on the righteousness of his own position. This hyper-focus tends to negate or invalidate the opposing viewpoint. When emotion hijacks* our intellect, little or no communication occurs.

Effective communication requires mutual respect and openness.

As Intentional parents, we will want to practice ways to ratchet down emotionally charged conversations. Develop strategies for addressing frustration and anger in the moment. These skills take time and practice to master!

We must regularly remind ourselves of this intention. Save the earnest discussions for times when parents and children are not in meltdown.


The second photo, on the other hand, conveys the polar opposite emotional content from the first. Both father and son appear engaged and attentive to one another. They are emotionally open and available to hold a meaningful conversation. For most of us, the picture triggers personal memories of feeling heard and validated. It is in these types of interactions that communication and connection occur.

The point of this post holds true for all of our conversations, not only those between parent and child.

How will you use the insight gained from this blog to help you improve your communication at home and out in the broader world?,204,203,200_.jpg
*For more information about emotional hijacking, read Daniel Goleman’s seminal book, Emotional Intelligence

Talk about the Hard Stuff Because They Are Thinking about It Already

Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 09:05 PM
Author: admin

Talk about the hard stuff; don't sweep it under the rug.In our two previous blogs, we focused on the role of the family adoption library as a way to facilitate important yet perhaps difficult conversations about adoption complexity. Books are one of many tools parents can draw upon to help them. The most salient point in these blogs was this: Hold the conversations and have them with enough frequency that everyone becomes comfortable with the topic.

Today I read a blog written by a seventeen-year-old adoptee. The post appeared on which “is a platform for Adoptees promoting authenticity and educating others by sharing a vast array of experiences as lived by those most affected by adoption.” The author wrote about his personal adoption experience. He affirmed that he loved his parents, felt connected to them etc. But…

And this is the “gold nugget” in his post: on the inside, he’d been struggling for years. Struggling to understand his ambivalent feelings, struggling to parse his gains and losses, struggling to protect his parents from his worry, struggling to fulfill his “obligation” not to upset them because it could be perceived as ungrateful.

That’s a lot for a youngster to handle without support. It is tragic that the parents whom he describes as loving him deeply have somehow missed the opportunity to walk with him through his struggles. It would appear that they have not succeeded in creating that open atmosphere of trusts, acceptance, and empathy that would reassure their son that they are capable of hearing not everything is perfect regarding his adoption.

Intentional parents create a safe & inviting space where difficult topics can be discussed. This level of communication provides a safety net so kids don’t believe they must hide or deny their thoughts and feelings or that they must struggle without parental support & guidance.

What have you done in your own family to build this sense of conversational security and openness with your children? What else might you do to further reassure them? How might you raise the issue of “withholding information” or “protecting parents from hard truths” directly? How would your family benefit from this type of intentional conversation?

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 @ 02:07 PM
Author: admin

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships-© HaywireMedia -

Last week we introduced the relationship pyramid and discussed how safety and security provide the foundation on which relationships depend. The more substantial the experience of feeling safe and secure, the stronger the relationship will be and the easier the transition to the increasing intimacy of the upper levels of the pyramid.

Until feelings of safety and security are firmly in place, the higher levels of relationship remain stubbornly out of reach. Efforts to teach, or discipline fall on deaf ears. Until kids feel connected, they don’t care or give much credence to what parents, ( or teachers, coaches, etc.) want.

Think about it. As an adult, the opinions of total strangers have little impact on your choices. Personal values, beliefs and priorities drive you, not the instructions of some random passer-by on the street. The influence of public opinion is minor compared to the sway of those about whom you really care and with whom you feel securely connected.  Kids too, listen to those they care about and to whom they feel connected.

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships-relationship-pyramid-Mirror

The next level of the Relationship Pyramid focuses on Mirroring and belonging. Mirroring is interactive. It involves a “Serve and Return” loop. Mirroring occurs between parent and child; sometimes the parent leads the mirroring. Other times the child mirrors what the parent models.

In the former, a parent notices a behavior in the child and repeats it back to them–not in a mocking way. But in a way that says, I “see” you and accept you.

Kids need assistance in learning to identify and name the emotions they feel and to accurately recognize the emotions displayed by others.

(Events from their history may be causing them to “go on the alert.” Discover what these triggers are. Validate their perceptions and help them to recognize that in the past it was true that  when a person from their past looked that way/acted that way, it indicated danger.)

Be careful to maintain  congruency about your own emotions. If children infer that you are angry, and their perception is accurate, own your emotion. Validate the accuracy of their “read.” Do not deny your emotions; this only confuses kids and makes it more difficult for them to develop accuracy in reading social cues.

How can parents help kids develop a broad emotional vocabulary that will serve them well, enhance their ability to socialize and foster the sense that they belong? Teaching children to recognize and name emotions provides them the vocabulary with which to think about and communicate their feelings.

Mirroring-Belonging-Building Healthy-Relationships-Father and toddler son playingPlayfulness plays an important–essential–role in creating and strengthening  connection between parent and child. Parents can engage in silly face games which involve mirroring on a purely physical level.  Check out this link for several ideas for emotional literacy activities including puppetry, miming, mirrors and more. (Practicing these skill-building activities when parent and child are in a relaxed mood, not when  a child is in the middle of an emotional meltdown.)

For another fun, joint activity, take pictures of each other as you dramatize different feelings. Turn the photos into  a matching game (similar to “Concentration” a popular child’s “matching” game.) Have fun. Enjoy spending time together, knitting that bond that connects while simultaneously helping your child acquire essential social skills.

How do you consciously mirror your child’s emotions?


Listening to Understand, Not to Refute

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 @ 06:07 PM
Author: admin

Listen to understand

Authentic listening is one of the most essential communication skills and one of the hardest to master. Often, we listen with an ear to refute or rebut what the speaker says. This is especially common when we listen to our kids. We seek ways to convince them of the rightness of our own position, and/or the unreasonableness of theirs. We focus on getting our point across instead of listening to their point of view.

Imagine what might happen if we chose to turn off the Gotcha! mentality and decided to listen deeply, to attend to each point the child is making. Without interrupting them. Without predetermining our response. Without telegraphing judgment, doubt or other negative response in either word or body language.

Imagine asking for clarity until we truly “get” their point and can respectfully repeat their points precisely.  How many of us have ever delivered that level of deep listening? Whaaat? You might be thinking, “I’m not letting the kiddos run the show.. I’m not giving in to their whining, etc.” That is not what we propose.

understand not agreeHere’s the pivotal distinction: listening for authentic understanding does not promise agreement; it promises a respectful, open heart and mind. Once we genuinely hear each of the speaker’s points, we can see both the position and their intended goal.

From this point, we can seek to build agreement, compromise of even disagreement. People will be more inclined to accept your response if they feel fully heard. Of course, there is no guarantee they’ll be happy but they will have had an experience rooted in respect. That interaction builds connection, teaches them  good communication skills and affirms the Family Value of respect. Have you ever been the recipient of this kind of listening? Recall how affirming that felt. Now imagine choosing to be that kind of listener. Imagine the potential impact on your family…

Distinction.Think Speak Hear From the vantage point of Intentional Parenting, we strive to engage in ways that build attachment, embody our Family Values, and successfully communicate our points of view. Stack the odds for a successful conversation by following these steps to mastering Deep Listening.

Consider timing: Deep Listening requires that both listener and speaker be fully engaged. Choose the time for your conversations; the immediate moment might not be your best option. For example, the middle of a play-off game, during one’s favorite TV show,  etc, probably won’t attract the most attentive or cooperative response.

Rephrase their points in your own words Then ask for affirmation that you have stated their point of view correctly. Repeat this sequence until they confirm that you’ve “gotten” their position.

State your response with empathy and respect. Monitor your tone and body language. Resist the temptation to be dismissive, irritated or, patronizing; these will undermine the entire process. Attitude will directly affect your effort to communicate respectfully.

1 conversation 3 POVsBe aware of the distinction between what you intend to say, what you actually say and what the listener thinks you said. An entire universe of misunderstanding can take place in those spaces. Note the graphic on the left for some examples of how conversations can be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Both parties have interior conversations with themselves about what is spoken, what was intended and what they inferred was being said. Often the “history” between the two colors the interaction more than what is actually said. Both parent and child need to periodically update their inner transcript to reflect and acknowledge changes in behavior. In the absence of this updating, any efforts to change go unnoticed and former, less healthy patterns will most likely reestablish themselves.

Track progressTrack your progress. Observe how this level of authentic listening impacts your family dynamics. Acknowledge the small improvements. Every step is valuable. Notice the changes in your feelings, family morale and the effectiveness of your conversations. How has this positive focus spilled over into other areas of family dynamics?

Review any less-than-successful interactions to identify the points at which your Intention fell apart or fell short of your goal. Make those leverage points your focus as you recommit to improving family communication.

Courage beginner

It takes courage to be a beginner. None of us like to look or feel inadequate.  But it is worth the struggle! Acknowledge that it is not easy to master new skills. It will take many times at bat before consistent improve occurs. Allow yourself–and the rest of the family–time and practice to accomplish this goal. Remain steadfast in the face of any failures and turn those shortfalls into stepping stones to success.

When will you take on this mindful communication practice? 

Listening and Speaking: Two Sides of Relationship Communication

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 @ 02:06 PM
Author: admin

coach.blogAdoption complicates family life; it brings tangled emotions, high stakes, and passionate commitment. Adoption also adds the challenge of handling inevitable grief, loss, and identity issues of everyone in the family. (Yes, that includes both children and parents!)

Coaching develops strategies for handling the realities in our lives. It can help families connect and get along better. One tactic is to focus on communication because it is a foundational pillar of successful relationships.

We’ve addressed communication many times in previous posts. For example, we’ve explored The Five Love Languages, the use of therapeutic narratives and the importance of truth telling. (Follow these links to read more.)

With this in mind, remember in our previous post, we considered the importance of Intentionality in communication. By first clarifying in our own minds whether we are making a request of someone or stating a requirement, we can formulate conversations with accuracy and respect. This amplifies the likelihood of cooperation and helps avert misunderstandings, disappointments, and frustrations.

request or requirement comparison.blogOnce we are clear on which kind of statement we wish to make, our next step is to frame that intention as precisely as possible. To accomplish this, we must understand the elements of both a requirement and a request, what they share in common, and what specifically distinguishes one from the other. Unless we understand the difference, our communications will lack clarity, lead to confusion, and our relationships will suffer adversely.

Refer to the graphic on the left. Notice how similar the two are. It is no wonder both speaker and listener get confused. As you can see, both statements need a focused speaker, a focused listener, specific expectations, and specific completion time. Let’s examine each element individually.

Why is a focused speaker important? Consider how many times you’ve spoken without pausing to gather your thoughts. Perhaps your attention was preoccupied and you delivered an answer, gave permission or, agreed to something which you’ve quickly regretted or wanted to recant. We’ve all been there—at home, at work and with friends. So yes, good communication requires a focused speaker.

half listening .blogWhy is a focused listener important? Ever felt like you were talking to a wall? Pretty irritating, right? (And I assert that we’ve all been “guilty” of this “half listening.”)

None of us like to experience this, whether as the speaker who is being half-ignored or as the listener who will be held accountable for a response made on auto-pilot. By ensuring that the listener is actually paying attention, we can avert a lot of conflict.

Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the number of times we encounter statements like the ones in this graphic on the left?


kitchen clean up.blogBoth Requirements and Requests benefit from specific expectations. This seems obvious and yet so often we fall into habits of vagueness. Whether between spouses, or parent and child, in the absence of specifics, there is a potential minefield for disagreement. Consider the topic of chores. Parents often assign kitchen duty to kids. A parent’s idea of a clean kitchen can vary wildly from a child’s. (Of course, expectations should be appropriate to a child’s age.)Address this problem by spelling out the specifics of the task in a family meeting. Then write down the details for  and post them where they can be quickly accessed. (The fridge makes a perfect spot.)

Another essential detail of both a Requirement and a Request is a specific completion time. By when must the task be completed? When we leave the time vague, we open ourselves up to frustration, anger, or nagging—and its partner–annoyance. Remember a time when you asked a child or spouse to tidy up (kitchen, workshop, garage, desk, etc.) How often did they immediately begin the task? How often did they delay? How often did you feel yourself getting annoyed because they didn’t start quickly enough? How often did that lead to nagging on your part and annoyance on theirs? How often did you each get more vested in your positions and engage in an inner conversation that made you “right” and them “wrong”? Stress builds and builds until we lose control. Things get ugly. Everyone feels distressed.

handshake on blue sky and sunlight background

Imagine the benefit that can result from mutually agreeing on a completion time, e.g,  8:00 p.m. Sunday. This specificity replaces vague terms like, “Yeah, I will,” or “Quit bugging me,” or dismissive responses like “later,” which may actually refer to some time before the end of the millennium. But when an exact completion time of 8:00 p.m. is clear to both parties, there is no confusion. No need to get agitated at a temporary delay because this deferral is not defiance.

Response or negotiation is the one element that distinguishes a Request from a Requirement. In a request, compliance is optional. Any or all of the first four elements may be adjusted. There may be immediate agreement on some of the details but not all. Discussion continues until both speaker and listener agree on each point. The conversation is  calm as each party works to hammer out an acceptable deal.

How might using the communication practice outlined in this post benefit your family? Which step presents your greatest opportunity for improvement?