7 Suggestions for Better Family Communication


A number of years ago I was reminiscing with a former softball teammate of mine named Bob. Together we shared memories of bygone days, games won and lost, and good times we spent together. He shared with me a memory of a time when he played on a team with a teammate whom he described as being a “character” of sorts. On one occasion he said he came to bat after the two previous batters had gotten hits. As he got ready to step into the batters box, the third base coach, who was this before mentioned teammate, yelled at him “Et Tu Bob!” My friend said he didn’t understand what he trying to say to him. Was he telling him to hit away, take a pitch, or what. He said he became so distracted by the comment that he didn’t hit the ball well causing him to make an out for the team. We both laughed! Apparently, at the time, my friend Bob wasn’t familiar with Shakespeare. “Et Tu Brutus” were supposedly the last words of a dying Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Brutus as he was being stabbed to death. The phrase can be interpreted a number of ways but is most commonly understood as “You too, Brutus!” Apparently the third base coach was asking my friend if he wouldn’t join the prior two batters in getting a hit. There are many ways to say this in baseball terminology. However that day, he choose Shakespearean dialogue to voice it. Unfortunately, the lack of communication between the two caused confusion rather than inspiration.

The lack of proper communication between individuals can cause great hurt which results in harmful consequences. History is replete with examples of how the lack of communication between groups of people has resulted in wars, conflict and death. Indeed, if we examine our own lives, I’m sure we can find an instance where we said things that were not properly interpreted by someone else. As a general rule, men are notoriously bad when it comes to communicating their thoughts and feelings.

Many years ago Marvin J. Ashton spoke on family communication. He gave seven basic suggestions for better family communication.

1. A willingness to sacrifice. Be the kind of family member who is willing to take time to be available. Develop the ability and self-discipline to think of other family members and their communication needs ahead of your own—a willingness to prepare for the moment—the sharing moment, the teaching moment.

2. A willingness to set the stage. The location, setting, or circumstances should be comfortable, private, and conversation-conducive.

3. A willingness to listen. Listening is more than being quiet. Listening is much more than silence. Listening requires undivided attention. The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard.

4. A willingness to vocalize feelings. How important it is to be willing to voice one’s thoughts and feelings. Yes, how important it is to be able to converse on the level of each family member. Too often we are inclined to let family members assume how we feel toward them. Often wrong conclusions are reached. Very often we could have performed better had we known how family members felt about us and what they expected.

5. A willingness to avoid judgment. Try to be understanding and not critical. Don’t display shock, alarm, or disgust with other’s comments or observations. Don’t react violently. Work within the framework of a person’s free agency. Convey the bright and optimistic approach. There is hope. There is a way back. There is a possibility for better understanding.

6. A willingness to maintain confidences. Be worthy of trust even in trivial questions and observations.

7. A willingness to practice patience. Patience in communication is that certain ingredient of conduct we hope others will exhibit toward us when we fail to measure up. (“Family Communications”, New Era, Oct. 1978)

I would encourage all of us to take the time to better our communication skills others, especially family members. It takes practice, patience and time. But the effort is worth it. Otherwise, we will find that what we have to say to others sounds, to them, like “Greek”.


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