We often hear about families facing ‘issues’. More often than not, these would stem from the inability to truly communicate our inner world to the people around us.
According to author and professor Evan Imber-Black, one of the most detrimental factors in family life is keeping secrets. This includes keeping our feelings, or even thoughts, to ourselves and not sharing them with other family members.
When we are not taught how to share our inner world to the outside world, we end up bottling up stories and emotions which may end up being released in destructive ways, bringing negative experiences within family life.
Secret keeping also brings shame and guilt, leading to uneasy family atmospheres. It is important to understand that emotions are felt and less seen. Hence, it is only through acknowledging what is happening at an inner level and then communicating it that we can understand what is happening.
There are also other factors that make communications within the family rather challenging. However, like anything else in life, there are always solutions and ways to make family life more harmonious.
Creating safe spaces
This article aims to provide insights into how you create safe spaces for a pleasant home environment, where families can communicate better.
One might want to factor in the fact that we all have different personalities and hence require different ways of understanding and communicating. There are many modalities that have developed over the years to help us identify our qualities and ways of being. Some of these tests include the famous Myers-Briggs personality test (MBTI), which is also accessible online.
“Rather than attacking or blaming, one may communicate with care, empathy and compassion”
This basic personality test will help you to understand the vast and diverse range of personalities one may have. It is crucial to first understand your own way of communicating and what, for you, constitutes communication. If one does not even understand themselves, how can they be able to communicate their needs and what needs to be addressed?
Being emotionally literate
In other words, the more emotionally literate we are, the better we can understand, communicate and manage our emotions, and the more we can understand others, while communicating safely and with respect.
Becoming emotional literate facilitates communication with one another. We must understand that when we have an activated emotion within our system, we are not perhaps making the right choice of words or actions. Yet, when one starts understanding their internal world − and can thus identify that, for instance, they are angry − they can communicate that and perhaps ask for space from the other members, where they − through their own emotional literacy and understanding − give the needed space.
This would prevent unnecessary arguments and misunderstandings, while making room for compassion. It takes practice and training to identify what happens in our internal worlds (which can be accessed through most modalities of therapeutic facilitation). Yet, when all family members engage in such practices, the environment they are in can be improved drastically.
Safe communication is another important strategy. We need to ensure that we are communicating in safe ways towards ourselves and others, namely using non-violent communication (NVC).
NVC explains that rather than attacking or blaming, one may communicate with care, empathy and compassion. This can truly help you shift how you relate to others, not just within your family unit but also within other social groups.
“The power of open communication in a safe space is incredibly cathartic”
Another crucial strategy within the family life is structured quality time. Choose a day as a family and dedicate an hour just to do a check-in round. The power of open communication in a safe space is incredibly cathartic. A simple suggestion would be to make an effort to eat together as often as possible.
To have a harmonious environment, one needs to take healthy steps into learning how to communicate with ease, without attacking or blaming. We need to learn how to become accountable, as it is only when we are accountable that we can change and improve our lives, practising what we preach while educating our children.
Sara Amin Omran is a counsellor and member of MACP – the Malta Association for the Counselling Profession.
If you’re interested in learning more about the counselling profession, or would like additional information on mental health and self-care, visit www.macpmalta.org or www.facebook.com/CounsellingMaltaMACP or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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