Most families, no matter what they look like, love each other deeply. The love a family feels for each other is often the most rewarding and painful thing that we all experience. We care so much for our family members that we expect something different from them than we do from other people, and this can often cause conflict.
Sometimes we say we love someone but we don’t really like them. This saying developed out of how we often feel about siblings, parents, spouses, even kids. It can be difficult to identify the difference between loving someone and liking or not liking their behavior. It can also be very difficult to communicate with someone who we are constantly trying to influence, whether we should be or not. This can make our communication style less than desirable. When we can learn to talk in “I statement” and utilize active listening, we are often able to tolerate each others’ differences to a greater degree.
An “I statement” is when we talk about our own feelings. This takes the blame out of a conversation. For instance, “I feel frustrated when I can to clean up after everyone else’s mess” is an “I statement” that helps us communicate our feelings rather than blame others. In order to validate someone’s feelings, it is important to reflect back what they are feeling, whether they agree or not. In the above instance, the listener might say, “I understand that you feel frustrated when cleaning up after others.” This might not change anyone’s behavior, but at least the person feels heard. Not feeling heard and understood is often the biggest barrier to having a more peaceful relationship.
Try this with your loved ones. It will feel forced and awkward, but if you practice it together it gets easier, deflates arguments, and helps people feel heard.