Communication is Key- A Skill Worth Learning

an exclusive feature by Bonnie Compton*

One of the biggest issues in relationships is the lack of communication, or more specifically mis-communication.  It can lead to tension in the relationship and worse, estrangement. Many of us were not taught how to communicate effectively by our parents, and neither were they.  In order to break this generational cycle, it’s important that we learn healthy effective ways to communicate with each other. An important skill we can then pass on to our grandchildren.

However, before you try to communicate with someone, it’s important to come from a calm place. Otherwise, they will focus on your frustration or anger, and miss your message. If you find yourself becoming frustrated quickly, it’s time to look at what might be triggering you. It’s also important to be clear about the message you’re trying to convey.

Here are some steps to help you get started in learning to calm yourself so that you can communicate effectively…

  • When you find yourself getting upset, before you do or say anything…PAUSE!
  • Create a space so that you can breathe, walk away, or do whatever you need to in order not to react.
  • Explore what you’re feeling in the moment…frustration, overwhelm, anger or sadness perhaps.
  • Be curious about where these feelings are coming from…are you feeling not seen, diminished, or disrespected?
  • Beneath anger is fear…fear of not mattering to someone, not being seen or heard, being isolated, or losing control.
  • Beneath our triggers, there are often our unmet needs. What do you need? Maybe you’re frustrated and overwhelmed because you’re not getting help around the house, feeling all the responsibilities fall to you.  Your need to have support is not being met.  However, did you ever tell your family this, or are you waiting for them to simply know or read your mind? Only you know what you need.  If you’re waiting for others to figure out what you need, your resentment will only build.  Unmet needs and unstated expectations can certainly lead to big emotional reactions!
  • Taking care of yourself is not selfish, and will actually help you calm down.  You cannot give what you’ve not received.  Have you ever noticed that you’re more reactive when you’re running on fumes? Self-care is self-love…gift it to yourself and see how less reactive you become.
  • Mindfulness matters…when you’re present in the moment, you’re not able to focus on the past or future.  We often react when we look through our lens of the past (you hurt me in the past, you never listen to me, etc.) or live in fear of the future (what if you leave me, what if you continue not to listen to me?) Be in the present moment and act from there.  Whether you need to state your truth or set your boundaries, do it in the present moment rather reacting while dredging up the past.

Remember, calm begins with you.  You cannot control anyone else’s behavior…you can only control yourself. 
Begin with you…practice how you will respond in the future.  When you do, you’ll begin to notice others change in relationship to how you’re showing up. 

If you want to help kids learn to regulate their own emotions and reactions, here are a few tips to get you started…

  • Acknowledge their feelings…I see you’re sad or mad (if you’re wrong about their feelings, no need to worry…they’ll be happy to correct you!)
  • Be curious about their reaction and what’s the emotion beneath
  • Help your child understand and name their emotions
  • Encourage them to explore and share their emotions
  • Teach them to state what they need (I need you to listen to me even if you have to tell me no.)
  • Teach them mindfulness and ways to calm themselves down.  Their ability to self-soothe is key in helping them regulate their own emotional reactions
  • Remind yourself that some kids have BIG emotions and need support to help them get through them

How will you show up the next time you’re triggered?
Will you react or respond?
You have a choice…what will you choose?

*Communication Is Key- A Skill Worth Learning is an exclusive feature for grandparentslink.com by Bonnie Compton, APRN, BC, CPNP, a child and adolescent therapist, parent coach, pediatric nurse practitioner and end of life doula, who lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband.   Her expertise, tips, advice, and articles have been featured in The Washington Post, Parent Magazine, Working Mother, Grandparent Link, Mindful Parenting Magazine, and Lowcountry Parent Magazine. Driven by the core belief that it’s never too late to make positive changes in any family situation, Bonnie passionately shares her vision for Parenting with Courage through speaking, webinars, the media, and as host of her own podcast radio program Wholehearted Parenting Radio, available on iTunes, Web Talk Radio, Radioactive Broadcasting Network, and Stitcher Radio. She is a mom of four adult children and believes that being a mother has been her most important job: and loves being Gramma to her five beautiful granddaughters. Bonnie is also the author of Mothering with Courage, Available here! Have a question or want to contact Bonnie?  843-718-1551, bonnie@bonniecompton.com