What Methods Improve Family Members' Understanding of Each Other?


    What Methods Improve Family Members' Understanding of Each Other?

    In the quest to bridge the gaps in family understanding, we've gathered insights from professionals, including a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate, who emphasizes exploring underlying feelings. Alongside expert advice, we've also compiled additional answers that range from shared hobbies to the 'I Feel' statements approach for expressing emotions. These methods, from professional techniques to everyday practices, aim to foster deeper connections and empathy among family members.

    • Explore Underlying Feelings with Iceberg Metaphor
    • Understand Children's Perspectives with Specific Questions
    • Foster Empathy with Perspective-Taking Exercises
    • Build Rapport Through Active Listening
    • Enhance Communication with Regular Family Meetings
    • Create Bonds with Shared Hobbies
    • Improve Interactions with No-Screens Dinner Rule
    • Express Emotions with 'I Feel' Statements

    Explore Underlying Feelings with Iceberg Metaphor

    Trained in several communication models, I love helping couples discover what is going on underneath the surface of their own and their partner's words and behavior.

    The Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy has a metaphor, the iceberg, which helps make sense of it all. The idea is that our defenses are typically the only thing showing above the waterline when we are in heated discussions with others. When we learn to build safety in ourselves and our relationships, we can allow people to dive deep with us and see what is actually going on below the surface.

    In the Satir Model, we believe that feelings, feelings about feelings, perceptions, expectations, body sensations, yearnings, and sense of self are all present under the waterline. Each of these categories is available to be explored to make sense of the conversation.

    For example, sometimes before you can talk about perspectives, you need to discuss expectations. What do you expect of yourself, the other, or the relationship? Or, most triggering: what do you perceive the other person is expecting of you? The combination of questions is endless.

    Learning to be a deep explorer of yourself and your partner can set you up for a sense of safety and intimacy, which will allow you to feel close whether perspectives are similar or not.

    Amanda Averbeck
    Amanda AverbeckMarriage and Family Therapist Associate, Authentically Rooted Counseling

    Understand Children's Perspectives with Specific Questions

    It is almost never as simple as telling someone to imagine being in someone else's shoes. So, I try to truly give adults the perspective of a child in the current time. It isn't the same as it was 20 years ago... or even five years ago, for that matter. Trying to make sure parents understand that it is truly difficult to be a kid now can be challenging.

    Many of the families I work with are financially secure, so the parents assume their children's needs are met. But the fact is, because of things like social media and even parental expectations, kids feel a strange type and amount of pressure most adults have never experienced. So I tell parents to ask a handful of specific questions to help them stay in touch with what is on their child's mind.

    Every day I ask our boys these two questions: 'What was your favorite part of today,' and, 'What is something that made you laugh today?' And then I ask bigger questions from time to time. For example, I try to ask my kids these three questions regularly: 'Is there something you'd like to do together,’ 'What is your happiest memory,' and, 'Is there anything that stresses you out?'

    And as for the kids I work with, I look them in the eye and I tell them, 'Parenting is the most difficult thing you'll ever do. And by the grace of God, not only is it totally worth it, but it is also totally awesome. Still, it is difficult! Remember that when you're upset with your parents.' I've found that to be incredibly effective.

    Josh PierceSchool Counselor, Kearney Catholic High School

    Foster Empathy with Perspective-Taking Exercises

    One approach I would use to help family members understand each other's perspectives better is 'Perspective-Taking Exercises.' This structured approach encourages family members to step into each other's shoes and view situations from the other person's point of view.

    I would ask each family member to answer a series of questions from the perspective of another person. I would encourage each family member to provide feedback to the others about how accurately their perspective was understood and to validate each other's feelings and viewpoints.

    This can help in acknowledging and respecting each person's experience. Using perspective-taking exercises can foster deeper empathy and understanding among family members. It helps them recognize that others might have different but equally valid feelings and reasons for their actions, ultimately promoting a more harmonious and empathetic family dynamic.

    Kavya Bontha
    Kavya BonthaPsychologist

    Build Rapport Through Active Listening

    Active listening is a crucial element in fostering understanding within a family. It involves giving full attention to the speaker, observing their nonverbal cues, and reflecting on what is being said without rushing to respond. This method ensures that each family member feels heard and validated, creating a safe space for open communication.

    By removing distractions and focusing solely on the conversation, misunderstandings are less likely, and empathy is built. Encourage your family members to practice this skill during their interactions for better rapport.

    Enhance Communication with Regular Family Meetings

    Holding regular family meetings can greatly enhance mutual understanding among family members. These meetings provide a structured opportunity for everyone to share updates about their lives, discuss any issues, and collaboratively make decisions. Consistency in these gatherings helps in establishing a routine that members can look forward to for open communication.

    It also allows everyone to stay informed about each other's needs and successes. Start planning your family's first meeting today and see the difference it makes.

    Create Bonds with Shared Hobbies

    Participation in common hobbies or activities is an excellent way to strengthen familial bonds. By doing something enjoyable together, families create shared experiences that facilitate casual yet meaningful conversations. This can be particularly helpful for members who find direct communication challenging.

    Shared activities naturally lead to a deeper understanding of one's interests, skills, and outlook on life. Find an activity all family members are interested in and make it a regular part of your life together.

    Improve Interactions with No-Screens Dinner Rule

    Instituting a no-screens-at-dinner rule can have a significant positive impact on family dynamics. It encourages members to engage with one another without the distraction of television, phones, or other electronic devices. This uninterrupted, face-to-face interaction allows for more significant conversations and the opportunity to truly connect with each other on a daily basis.

    It's a simple yet effective method to nurture family relationships and improve understanding. Why not try it out at your next meal?

    Express Emotions with 'I Feel' Statements

    Utilizing 'I feel' statements is an effective method for expressing emotions in a non-confrontational manner. This form of communication encourages individuals to own their feelings and express them without blaming others, thus reducing defensive reactions. When family members articulate their emotions clearly and respectfully, it fosters an environment where people feel safe to share their true selves.

    Moreover, it teaches everyone to be accountable for their feelings and words. Give it a try—express yourself using 'I feel' statements and encourage your family to do the same.