A fundamental element in any functional society begins with being able to communicate with each other. That desire to reach out and make known our inner thoughts is how we exist together in this realm.
A good family, no matter how good, will have friction. There is a certain amount of friction which is actually good. Friction in the right context is the defining factor between passable and amazing, mediocrity and greatness.
When the Friction is too much.
In The 1970s a 14 year study began which looked at predicting divorce rates based on negative interactions between couples. The couples were placed in a room with Dr Gottman and Dr Levenson. They were asked to solve a marital conflict that they had and given a time limit of 15 minutes. These couples were then followed for the next 9 years to see how they would end up. The tapes of the interactions were reviewed, and then carefully studied. After the study was completed they were able to predict which couples would stay together, and which ones would divorce, with about a 90% accuracy.
The 5:1 Ratio Positive:Negative
After the study’s conclusion, they came up with a ratio of 5:1. This is what Dr Gottman and Dr levenson saw as the “magic” ratio in couple interactions. For every “negative” interaction, a healthy marriage had 5 “positive” interactions.
This ratio they found, if at a one to one, usually meant the marriage was pretty close to ending. Also a few other interesting things to note were the type of negative interactions that couples close to divorce were experiencing.
Eye rolling was measured as a particularly critical negative interaction. This is a powerful (in a bad way) expression. If you are an eye roller, this needs to stop immediately, and you need to address your issues with your husband, or children.
Anger is seen as an acceptable negative expression in terms of arguments between couples. Dr Gottman concluded that “anger only has negative effects in marriage if it is expressed along with criticism or contempt, or if it is defensive.”
Engaging in positive conflict
Communicating displeasure is an important step to resolving issues before they become nuclear.
Here are a few tips that were found regarding couples who managed conflict successfully and stayed together.
Ask your husband and children about their day, their interests, and their feelings. Showing genuine interest in their lives will help them feel valued and appreciated. What games do your children play? Which places would your husband/partner like to take you to alone to spend time together?
Let your family know that you love and care for them. A hug, a smile, or a kind word can go a long way in strengthening your bond.
Show your family they matter
Make time for activities with your family, and make sure their opinions are heard.
Go out of your way to show appreciation
Recognise the efforts of your husband and children, and thank them for the things they do for you. Once we esteem other people around us, that respect will return itself in their treatment of you too. This goes especially for young teens who start to develop their own sense of self identity.
Begin on points you both agree with
Rather than arguing, start conversations on issues that you both agree with. This can help to create a more positive and productive atmosphere. Everyone has an idea of “paradise” and “hell”, your husband, yourself and your children. Find out what the paradise is for the people that you care about most, and tell them what your idea of paradise is, and find a compromise where you can both move away from your idea of “hell” and towards something that makes life better for all of you.
Put yourself in the shoes of your family members and try to understand how they feel. This will help you to relate to them more deeply. True empathy means taking on their burdens and feeling their hurt, their anger, and pain. Everyone has bad days at their work, their school or in their classes. Taking the time to understand their distance and pain can transform the family dynamic.
Apologise, and mean it
If you make a mistake, apologise and make sure your family knows that you are genuinely sorry. This means some kind of change in behaviour. It comes down to a heartfelt attitude approach to your initial starting point.
Listen to what your husband/children think.
Make sure you listen to the opinions of your family members, and respect their views. This doesn’t mean agreeing, but it does mean speaking with kindness in response to what has been said to you. I often find myself cutting off my kids before they finish their replies. This is a sure fire way to create distance between you.
Have a fun time.
Play is an important part of communicating affection. When we stop having fun with the people we care about, a large part of our ability to connect with them leaves us. Play some video games with the children, make sure there is real joy in your household.
Make it work.
Whatever the situation is, communication comes from genuine interactions between people who love and care about one another. If you apply some of these strategies like you would to a professional working situation, then you will revive the dynamics internally. This is the key to having your family communicating with you and not against you. If you need some help, reach out to me and my team.
Author Simone Lord
Simone Lord is a keynote speaker, women’s health specialist, lifestyle coach, mentor, and family finance advisor.