How To Communicate Effectively With Your Family

Written by CFSSC Walk-In Clinic counsellor, Jessica Clark; M.A., R.P. Qualifying.

Families coping with life’s difficulties and challenges can benefit from embracing a set of four assumptions:

  1. “There is no one truth”
  2. “All of us are doing the best we can”
  3. “We can each try harder”
  4. “Interpret each situation in the most benign way possible”

These “working assumptions for relationships” have provided a useful framework to move loved ones toward more effective relating. Perhaps, these can be useful in effectively engaging friends and family during periods of stressful change.

The purpose of intentionally holding these basic assumptions is quite practical; the purpose is to communicate more effectively and to genuinely connect with those we care about.

Dialectical behavior therapy holds critical skills such as interpersonal effectiveness and mindfulness skills that help us to be able to interact and relate with those around us.

There is no one truth

In any group of people, there are many perspectives. Each of us has a unique perspective or vantage based on our life history, our state of mind, our level of understanding, our hopes and wishes, and our habitual patterns and life lessons. Keep this in mind when communicating with friends or family.

Doing the best we can

Of the four assumptions, this one tends to evoke the most skeptical reaction. Remember that it is not intended to be a philosophical argument on who is right and who is wrong. Of course, one could argue exceptions to this assumption that one is doing the best she can when its clear that mistakes are being made. The purpose is to remember that the people we care about are not malicious–that they are doing what they think is best at that moment and in that situation for themselves or even others.

We can try harder

The third basic assumption provides a welcome dialectic or some balance to the second assumption. While each of us is doing the best we can, “we can each try harder” in the sense that we can learn to become more skillful, and we can gain more knowledge. We can redouble our efforts to practice patience, empathy and validation. This assumption balances the fundamental attitude of acceptance with the essential willingness to change such that our relationships can improve and deepen.

Interpret each situation

The last of our four working assumptions is founded on the fact that we care about each other and that the well-being of each of us truly matters. So, we do our best to “interpret each situation in the most benign way possible.” Basically, we give each other (and ourselves) the benefit of the doubt. We refrain from the urge to assume the worst (using mindfulness). We witness our minds producing plentiful negative thoughts and conclusions, be mindful of these thoughts, and refrain from immediately acting on these. This is not to deny negative aspects of reality, however, we are intentionally investigating a more benign interpretation and genuinely considering this perspective. Then, we can mindfully consider the pros and cons of taking those actions or expressing those thoughts.

Put one of the four assumptions to use

Choose one of the four basic assumptions to bring to mind during the next day or two. Notice how and when this helps you to use your Dialectical behavior therapy skills more effectively and to continue building the relationships that make life worth living.

 

Do you want help communicating with a family member? Book an appointment today with one of our registered family counsellors today.