Good communication at home is essential

April 22, 2011|Lisa Prejean

"Mom, is it OK for me to practice piano now, or should I wait, since Dad is resting?"

Our 16-year-old didn't want to disturb his hard-working father on a Sunday afternoon, but practice time was ebbing away.

I gave him a sign to indicate that I'd take care of things.

Leaning in close to my husband, I gently kissed the top of his nose and whispered in his ear, "Dear, would you mind resting upstairs so the kids can practice piano?"

His eyelids flickered as he said, "It's OK. I'm just resting my eyes for a few minutes. They can practice. I don't mind."

I relayed the message to our son and explained, "Sometimes, it's all in the approach."

Imagine how differently our afternoon would have unfolded if we had been inconsiderate or impatient with each other.

Unfortunately, we've been there, too. When life gets busy, social skills can be forgotten.

However, as much as possible, it's important to model proper communication and considerate behavior in the home. Children — and their parents — need practice on a daily basis.

First, children need to be challenged on the purpose of communicating. Is the purpose to gain information? To change someone's opinion? To inspire action?

People in sales refer to this first step as "Know your product."

Or we could say, "Know your message."

The next step is to learn as much as you can about the person who will receive the message. What is important to this person? Is this person receptive to communication at this moment?

In marketing, this second step is called "Know your customer."

To offer effective communication, a person must also evaluate himself or herself. A listener will want to know who the communicator is and what the communicator wants before he decides to receive the information.  

This step could be called "Know yourself."

Which brings us to the next step. How, when, where and in what manner should a person be approached? How can this communication be delivered in a positive, considerate way?

Here's an example from "Effective Communication on the Job," an American Management Association manual:

A person is more likely to react favorably to a positive approach, such as "I think we may have the answer to the XYZ problem," as opposed to a negative approach, "I think we're headed for trouble on that XYZ problem."

I don't like heading for trouble ... unless we're playing a board game. But I do like finding the answers.

Perhaps if we all make a valiant effort to unlock the doors to effective communication, we'll find the answers we need.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send email to her at

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