It is me understanding your heart and me being willing to take the risk to open my heart. That’s communication. We do a lot of talking/verbalizing at one another, but it doesn’t create closeness. We feel like the absence of contention equals closeness. The absence of contention might mean everyone is on their own phone not causing problems.
The goal in every relationship is closeness. The key is learning how to communicate with each other. Most of us have never been taught.
President Monson said Communication is a skill we learn, not one we have been born with.
Answers from an SAT test…16 year old students.
Name the 4 seasons….salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar
How is dew formed…the sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire
What are steroids…things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.
Name a major disease associated with cigarettes…premature death
How can you delay milk from turning sour…keep it in the cow
What is the fibula…a small lie.
What is a seizure…a Roman emperor
What is a terminal illness…when you are sick at the airport.
What does the word benign mean…it what you be after you be eight.
What is a Hindu…it lays eggs.
In all of these there was a misunderstanding. They weren’t understanding the question. We don’t know if someone else is getting what I say unless they tell us. We don’t know if this is actually intended unless we check it out.
Most of our conversations with family tends to be situational…logistics, problem solving, lecture/teaching, discipline. Therefore it never brings closeness. Closeness comes when heart talks to heart. In most conversations one head talks to a head. When you feel like someone really understands what you are feeling or thinking or going through then that understanding makes them feel like they love you. This is one of the most important factors in helping them feel loved.
What does good communication look like? How do we create it? It is hard! This is a hard one to master. In becoming proficient at it you have to get over the natural man. The natural man wants your way when they want it. We tend to want to be listened to.
There was a father talking to his son. The boy rolled his eyes and got up to walk out of the room. The Dad said you never listen to me. The boy said, “That’s all I do. You never listen to me.”
As parents and spouses we are so wound up on making sure the other person understands our wisdom and knowledge we are simply focused on helping them understand how we feel. They should appreciate it. We feel shut out when they don’t react that way. When walls go up there is still a lot of talking that can go on, but it’s not heart to heart. You can’t influence someone to change behavior if they don’t feel like you care about them. You have to be interested in their heart.
Roadblocks to communication….
- Society has taught us to focus on ourselves. It’s more important to be understood than to understand.
Your parents when they disciplined you they wanted you to understand why you were wrong. The teacher said this is what you need to do and you need to do it now. Church does the same thing. Things are being imposed upon you. They want you to understand why they are right. Our society does say listen to your elders. Kids won’t take that now even if you want to teach it that way.
- Particularly with spouses we assume they see it our way.
- We assume we know the answer before the question is asked.
- We talk to much
- We listen too little
We don’t talk in full thoughts. They never reveal your real soul. They are little blurbs that are more logistics. They have no emotion in them. We reach the point where it’s difficult to sit with another adult and talk eye to eye. They are nervous. They can’t handle that. They will have a hard time being a missionary and a horrible time being a spouse. Those relationships require sharing. We need to help them learn to use electronics and have a relationship.
- Syllabus…pg 4 (Being an effective listener)
We are so anxious to get our thought known that we don’t listen. Our kids come home we interrupt and jump in a fix it. Others don’t go into power struggle like the reds, but they shut down.
Think about how many times you feel like your spouse has put that wall up with you.
Class member: My husband asked is this the time you just want me to listen or do you want an answer?
“It’s not about the nail.” VIDEO
Women…men don’t come by this naturally. You have to tell him what you need. You may not hold him accountable if you haven’t told him.
I work part-time as a teacher of family doctors. The program provides training of psychiatric disorders and emphasizes the importance of emotional support. The new doctor are given plenty of time in clinic to visit with their patients and learn about their challenges.
One of our interns who has never lived in Utah and knows nothing about Mormons is still struggling to understand the cultural climate here. Last week he was interviewing a new patient and stumbled on what he thought was a raging psychosis.
Doctor: "Well, Mrs. Olsen, we've talked about your high blood pressure and your medications. Are you experiencing any particular stress in your life?"
Patient: "Oh, yes! It's the Sunbeams. They're driving me crazy."
Doctor: (very surprised) "The sun beams?"
Patient: "Yes. I've never had trouble with them before, but this group won't sit still. They bounce all over the room, and run out the door and down the hall."
Doctor: (reaching for a pen) "Have you told anyone about this?"
Patient: "Of course, I told the president."
Doctor: "Really! What did the president tell you?"
Patient: "She said Sunbeams are like that. I'm just going to have to learn to deal with them."
Doctor: "(concerned that he may be missing something) "I know people who are sensitive to sun beams. Do they cause you a rash or anything?"
Patient: (confused) "A rash? No."
Doctor: "What is the biggest problem they're creating?"
Patient: "It's the noise. They just won't quit talking."
Doctor: (astonished) "The sun beams are talking to you?"
Patient: "Well, yes. But mostly thy talk to each other."
Doctor: (scribbling furiously in the chart) "I see. Can anyone else hear them talking?"
Patient: (after a moment of stunned silence) "You're not LDS, are you?"
Trevor went on his mission to Uruguay. We had to write letters. He went to the MTC in Provo to speak Spanish. He got to Uruguay and his companion was a native and spoke no English. He wrote home this letter that was heart wrenching. He said I’m trying hard. I’m studying. I just want to tell these people about the gospel. I feel like such a failure. I got about 3 letters like this. I finally got this letter from in after 3 months. He said, Mom I finally get it. I’m not trying to get them understand me anymore. I’m trying to understand what they are saying to me.
That’s the key to communication. Once you are more interested in trying to understand what they are saying then they open up. They receive you better after they feel like you understand them.
You can listen 5x faster than I can speak. Every one of you sitting here today have been thinking about other things while we are in this class. You will hear what I say and your mind bounces somewhere, but you come back. During that extra time you have planned your menu, shopping list, lecture you are going to give, etc even though you are still here.
When you get into real communication what is your mind doing with that extra time? What are you thinking? You aren’t sleeping. Your mind is zinging around. What do you do with that time?
If your child presents you with the problem, your mind solves the problem and you interrupt them to fix it. The other thing is that we invalidate their feelings.
If your daughter comes home and says, “I’m so fat.” You say, “You are not!”
You shut down. You don’t understand. Exactly the opposite happened. In saying that it says I don’t care about how you feel. My truth is not her truth. She was expressing to me her truth. It’s what she feels so it is her truth.
Seek further knowledge from them. That situation may not even being the problem. I’m just testing the waters to see if you are willing to go with me. If you aren’t listening I’m not going to risk it. If who you are talking to doesn’t make it safe for you, then you quit. Our job as parents is to seek to not build walls….to keep them down.
1. Ask questions!
Instead of say…”No you aren’t.” It’s to ask questions to encourage her to keep responding.
Do this in everything!!! This is the key you give them….ask 3 questions before you can give the answer…for further enlightenment and understanding.
Don’t just repeat back what they said. That is demeaning.
Ask, “What happened today that made you feel like that?” Nothing is what they will say if it doesn’t feel safe. “You seem to be very upset. Tell me about your day.” She just really hated dressing down for PE. That wasn’t where you started.
Men talk ‘facts’! Women talk ‘feelings’!
You seem to be really frustrated?
What did you do?
How did you fix that?
Because men are bottom line fixers they just want to know what to do to fix it. The bottom line is to just listen and ask questions. She wants to go fix it herself.
Your children feel the same way. They want to know you have faith in them to fix the problem themselves.
Class member: Could you say, “Why do you feel that way?”
“Why” seems condemning. Try using “What” instead.
Questions to ask…
- How do you feel about that?
- What is your understanding of…?
- What do you believe is the meaning of that?
- Why do you think…? (Be careful of your tone…use level zero with concern. That can put them in the corner very quickly.)
Ask questions that can’t be answered in one word. It’s hard!! The ability to ask good questions is a spiritual gift. As parents and spouses it’s one we need to pray for. It’s key in forming good relationships….to ask questions and bite your tongue.
Most of us with the natural man think I’m communicating with you if I share my opinion.
Example…A sister comes to Relief Society with a new baby. Someone asks, “How was your labor?” Someone interrupts and tells them about their own labor instead of the other persons.
We interrupt to tell our experience. We turn the whole thing around. If I’m in that conversation, you feel like ‘you really aren’t interested in me’.
You ask 3 questions then share your own personal experience.
Class member: It’s listening to what they need about it. Sometimes they really don’t care about your birth.
Communication is about them!
Class member: You just want to talk so you have the floor. If I’m just trying to say it to ‘one up you’ or is it to help you connect more.
We have to be conscious about why we are saying what we are saying.
Class member: My sister is always interrupting to tell her story. How do you gently realize they are doing it?
You could say…I learned this really cool thing and I’m going to teach my children this. You have to be careful, but you have to be careful how you share it.
Yellows and reds…have a horrible time making life about them. They have a harder time focusing on others.
Part of your job is to create an environment that is safe and then you create that communication process.
There are 4 times during the day that are stellar for communication moments. They should be used.
1. Table Time Talk---no put downs, no criticism. Generically speaking home is not a safe place to share your feelings because sibling to real put downs with each other. Your children’s name needs to be safe in your home.
Class member: I have son with sensitive ears and a daughter who chews really loudly. He keeps say “Please stop chewing loudly.”
Train first, not criticize first. Table manners…silent—don’t hear drinking or chewing or biting your fork. The eating is silent. You teach them how to sit. You teach them how to pass food. You teach them how silverware is lined out. At the end we are going to have a big dinner and invite someone over. We are going to take you out to eat so you can practice. As a family you work on these things. Then you have the final test and work on it. Bad manners is not criticizing each other at the table.
If they are targeted like that in the family that will not motivate them to change their behavior.
No one wants to talk at table time. You feel like you are dragging things out of them. There are a couple of games. One is called the “Un game” One of them is “Family Talk”. They are just cards of questions.
If you could be any animal what would you be?
If you were a super hero who would you be?
There is no right answer. There is no wrong answer.
The rules are you have to ask 3 questions. You are going to teach communication. They don’t get to just listen to them say the answer. You get them to answer 3 questions…Why did you choose to be a robin? Where would you build your nest?
It is one of the least used best family building tools we have.
2. Children returning home from school. You need to be available there in the home. You look at them and sit with them and discuss. As they walk in the door they are ready to talk. You can’t force them to communicate you can only invite.
3. Car time You can sing together. You can do Book of Mormon questions. You can play games to engage in the car. Don’t use lecture and electronics in the car. When you have children one on one….don’t turn on the radio or plug in. This is a great time to ask questions.
4. Bedtime. You should ‘talk’ them into bed instead of ‘tuck’ them into bed. It will be the highlight of their day. This does not exclude teenagers. This is all of them.
Class member: This is a tradition in our home. Our daughter just talks about whatever she wants to. She asks questions. It’s great!
If your children are unfamiliar with it have them look for a CTR moment. When they know you are coming in at night they know you want to hear about it. Also ask them about the hardest part of the day. They need to be able to tell you about both. Make it safe for them to share. You may not fix the situation at this time!
Class member: I have 4 kids…2 in each room. I know my 14 year old will be hesitant to talk with the 12 year old in the bunk.
I would invite the 14 year old out on the couch to talk for 5 minutes.
Class member: I have one child that needs to have mommy talk time. I call it the counseling hour. She takes up so much time. I have 6 kids. The other kids see me spending so much time in with her.
It’s appropriate to have talk time with the other 5 at the other times of the day. Night is a good time. You may have a longer time when they get home. You may have a longer talk time while you are fixing dinner. You do need to make a stop at each of them. The one that needs so much time I would start to wean her down off that. These are real needs…anxiety, discouragement…it’s a really physical, mental, emotional need. It’s not making it even with everyone. Part of being a good mom is realizing that. If Dad is home you can divide and conquer so you be more available. When Dad is home he could take the other kids for a talk time. These are good times to do it, but not the only time to do it.
Class member: I would make one of them come with me while I picked up the other one from an activity and I would go 30 minutes early.
That’s the creating the talk time. These are practices. If the idea doesn’t work you figure out other ideas. They have to have talk time so that has to learn to happen.
Different children truly need more time. Assess (prayfully) if it is a real need or is it ‘undo attention’. The Spirit will prompt you and let you know. Is it a need or a want?
12 Commandments of Being A Good Listener….
- Seek to understand what is meant. Check your understanding for them.
- Seek meaning more than words. Watch body language. Women have a tendency to use superlatives. (You never pick up your socks? Never?) He is focused on words rather than meaning. We take offense because we focus on the words. Reds will say harsh things to you. Don’t get angry, but don’t give in.
- Do not interrupt!!! It doesn’t mean as you let them express something to the end and asking them questions doesn’t mean you agree. It means you are giving them the right to have a different understanding. “That’s not my understanding, you have an interesting point of view.” “I will be interested in seeing how that works out for you.”
- Put aside your own personal views. You aren’t working on what to say and how to lecture. Until after you have asked your 3 questions put aside your opinion.
- Control your impatience. Let them go. They need to go. Do not tune out of the conversation because you can think faster than they can talk. Be there! Stay there in the conversation!
- Show interest. Look at them. Don’t text or use electronics. Your body needs to be there too.
- Don’t prepare your answer while you are speaking.
- Ask questions to seek and show understanding, NOT to entrap them.
- Do not quiver about words. If you know what they are meaning. The intent is right, but she doesn’t like the way they said it. Follow the heart.
- Look for areas of agreement and not disagreement.
- After you have had had a conversation with some one…sum up your understanding of what they have said so you understand.
- Avoid responding emotionally when you are angry, in fear, irrational, or control.
Learn to listen.
Validate back what they have been saying.
Communication vs. talking. Communication takes times and effort to get into that person’s space and not be threatened by being there.
Teach your children how to communicate and your spouse what you need in communication.
Richard Lindsay May 1994 “Feed My Sheep”
I grew up in rural Salt Lake County when it was an economic necessity to care for a variety of barnyard animals. My favorite animals were sheep—prompted perhaps by the fact that sheep do not require being milked twice a day, seven days a week.
I wanted our own sons to have the blessing of being shepherds to such farm animals. Our older sons were each provided with a ewe to teach them the responsibility of caring for these sheep and the lambs that would hopefully follow.
Our second son, newly turned six years of age, called me excitedly at my office one cold March morning on the phone and said, “Daddy, guess what? Esther [Esther was his mother ewe]—Esther has just had two baby lambs. Please come home and help me take care of them.” I instructed Gordon to watch the lambs carefully and make sure they received the mother’s milk and they would be fine. I was interrupted by a second phone call later in the morning with the same little voice on the other end saying, “Daddy, these lambs aren’t doing very well. They haven’t been able to get milk from the mother, and they are very cold. Please come home.”
My response likely reflected some of the distress I felt by being distracted from my busy work schedule. I responded, “Gordon, the lambs will be all right. You just watch them, and when Daddy comes home we will make sure they get mother’s milk and everything will be fine.” Again, later in the afternoon I received a third, more urgent call. Now the voice on the other end was pleading. “Daddy, you’ve got to come home now. Those lambs are lying down, and one of them looks very cold.” Despite work pressures, I now felt some real concern and tried to reassure the six-year-old owner of the mother sheep by saying, “Gordon, bring the lambs into the house. Rub them with a gunnysack to make them warm. When Daddy comes home in a little while, we will milk the mother, feed the lambs, and they will be fine.”
Two hours later I drove into the driveway of our home and was met by a boy with tear-stained eyes, carrying a dead lamb in his arms. His grief was overwhelming. Now I tried to make amends by quickly milking the mother sheep and trying to force the milk from a bottle down the throat of the now weak, surviving lamb. At this point, Gordon walked out of the room and came back with a hopeful look in his eyes. He said, “Daddy, I’ve prayed that we will be able to save this lamb, and I feel it will be all right.”
The sad note to this story, is that within a few minutes the second lamb was dead. Then with a look that I will remember forever, this little six-year-old boy who had lost both of his lambs looked up into his father’s face and with tears running down his cheeks said, “Daddy, if you had come home when I first called you, we could have saved them both.”
Your children are calling you. They are reaching out. They need you. Will we be too busy to hear them or will we hear their plea and answer their call. You are the conduit between Heavenly Father and them.