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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Can Bridge the Communication Gap with Your Children!

Today’s youth is living in an excited world of information and opportunities—‘info-glut’ and the scope for social interactions, that too, at an anonymous level on the net have placed the youth on a totally different trajectory. At the same time it is challenging their wit in many ways. But one good thing with today’s teens is: they are more eager to ponder over, debate and discuss such issues that are bothering them either at the campus or off the campus. And in all such situations, obviously, it is the parents, who strike to them as the first destiny to open a dialogue. 

But parents, unfortunately, are found wanting in catching up with this explosion of accelerated change. No doubt, Indian parents have tremendous concern for their wards and are indeed always found anxious in providing all the security that they could afford to their children. Yet, for indefinable reasons, they hold back themselves in articulating their concerns unambiguously with their children. One reason for such communication gap could be: they being from the older generation, are not sure how to communicate with the younger lot, particularly, on issues such as teens’ browsing adult sites that either challenge their belief systems or considered taboo for discussion. In the process, parents are often found simply ending up saying ‘no’—perhaps being overdriven by their concern for the welfare of their progeny—to everything that a boy/girl broaches. This obviously does no good in bettering the teens’ lot and instead lands them in frustration.  

In this confusion, communication between parents and children appears to have severed. The unintended consequences of such communication gap could be: miscues and misunderstandings – in other words, lots of crosstalk. Which is why we often find teens negotiating all by themselves through the mixed messages that they are getting from the environment. This is certainly not a healthy sign. This communication gap, therefore, needs to be bridged. Nevertheless, there is no ‘the’ answer for bridging the gap, except that adoption of certain principles such as listed hereunder might facilitate better communication between the parents and their progeny. 

Be available to listen: Even in the hustle and bustle of daily life, make sure to give special time to your ward, make yourself available to listen to him/her.  Give them a belief that you love them by looking into their eyes, paying full attention to what they are saying, letting them take their own time to figure things out and express their feelings and never ever forcing them to talk. Encourage a boy/girl who is finding it difficult to articulate the challenge he/she is facing, to express their feelings by scribbling on a paper. For, such behavior assures them that they could confide in the parents and this in turn facilitates a meaningful dialogue. And dialogue can in turn result in a shared solution to the issue at hand. This also gives a sense of control over his/her life to the ward.  

Listen:  Firstly, unless one listens attentively to what the other man is saying, one cannot understand what the other man’s problem is. And unless one understands well what the other man is saying, one cannot offer right feedback. Secondly, one need not necessarily agree with what all the other man is saying, but one must listen to the other without making a judgment, for it alone affords him/her a sense of freedom and acceptance. It is worth remembering here that every communication has both an intellectual and an emotional component. It is, therefore, essential for a conversation to flow freely to have an element of acceptance from the listener. It simply offers him/her [originator of dialogue]space within which a dialogue can happen. It is only through a free flowing dialogue that one can share his/her concerns. On the other hand, listening to the problem being narrated by the other man, if one attempts to fix it for him/her, let him know how one would have handled the problem, or pass judgment on what is being narrated, the narrator tends to shut down. 

Reflective listening and paraphrasing: Paraphrasing before he/she completes her side of story would be highly annoying to the narrator. On the other hand, listening fully well without stopping in the middle, if one paraphrases, it could indeed help the other man/woman a lot in taking the dialogue to a meaningful end.  Here again, paraphrasing does not mean repeating what he/she said, but using one’s own intuition, and  his/her tone, feelings, expressions, etc. Such analytic reflection could certainly encourage the dialogue to move into a thoughtful channel. For instance, while listening to him/her, a father can nod his head and say, “Go ahead, I understand”, which conveys to the ward that what he is saying is important to the father. Similarly, another way of saying that one is actively listening is seeking clarification—for instance, what did you mean when you said “… “?” Such questioning reinforces the belief that the father is concerned about what the son/daughter is talking and it simply keeps the dialogue going forward effectively. Secondly, it is extremely important to pay close attention to the body language of the son/daughter while listening to him/her, as this could probably add an altogether new dimension to the whole issue being deliberated upon. 

Emphasize the positive: Psychologists believe that unhappy family relations are often the outcome of negative communication patterns adopted by the members. For instance, any communication that is rich in criticism, contempt, defensiveness, etc. is sure to generate negative feelings in the receiver—it simply puts down the receiver. And such put-downs tend to break the communication—the boy/girl may henceforth share nothing with the parent. And this is detrimental to sound relationship building. So, positive communication is to be practiced. 

Use “I” messages: As ‘I-messages’ reflect the thinking or feelings of the parent/sender, they sound less-judgmental. So, they are perceived to be non-threatening by the receiver. To that extent they stand a better chance of acceptance.  Secondly, I-messages—as against ‘You-messages’ that are often found loaded with negative feelings such as put-downs, blames, “You should work hard”—being sender-focused tend to sound more positive—for instance a father might say, “I think you could have labored a little more.” Such messages are likely to generate better cooperation from the ward. 

Show interest: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them”, said Ralph Nichols. In other words, by making himself/herself available to listen to what the other man is saying—without interrupting and passing judgments—one could assure the other man that one is really having his/her interest at heart. It is perfectly alright to admit that he/she is equally confused by the issue at hand but is willing to work on shared solutions. Evincing such an interest encourages the other man to open his heart fully, and this in turn makes finding an answer to the problem under discussion that much more easy. 

Communicate clearly and directly: Effective communication means being clear and direct. Then only the intended message can be understood by the receiver correctly. Unless understood correctly by the receiver, right action cannot be initiated, and unless right action is initiated, no anticipated results can be accomplished. That is the importance of effective communication.

Sense of humor:   Quite often humor is found to come handy in diffusing tense moments. Particularly, it comes handy in synthesizing more of “I-messages”, that too, more effectively. Nevertheless, one must have a flair for using subtle humor, particularly for its timing; else, it might boomerang.  



Dr.A.Jagadeesh said...

Great article with full of wisdom.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

karpuramanjari said...

Thanks a lot Dr. Jagadeesh garu...

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