Bright Ideas

Seven tips to help you and your family communicate difficult emotions

Bright Ideas Sparkle Candle Communicating difficult emotions with family members can help build trust, understanding and provide some perspective. Whilst sharing difficult emotions may not always be easy, it's important for family members to try to have these conversations. Here are some simple strategies to help you get started.
  1. Think before you speak: when we’re having a difficult conversation, sometimes nerves can get the better of us, leaving us feeling frustrated at not being able to express ourselves properly. Plan what you want to say and then practise saying it. That way, you can remain in control of your end of the conversation, which can lead to better outcomes. 
  2. Timing is everything: people may not be ready to talk when you are. Give them some time and keep looking for opportunities. Perhaps suggest an activity you enjoy doing together as this can relax and open lines of communication.
  3. Stop washing the dishes: or whatever it is you’re doing. Trying to listen whilst occupied is not conducive to good communication. If you really can’t stop what you’re doing, you can say something like, “I’ll be able to give you my full attention once I’m done with X.”
  4. Be still: don’t cut the other person off or interrupt them. Listening quietly and allowing someone to speak until they are finished makes them feel validated and more likely to open up to you again in the future.
  5. The truth sets you free: whilst hiding the truth might feel right in situations where you don’t want to upset a family member, you build more trust by being honest – as long as that honesty is relayed in a loving and gentle manner. 
  6. Be open: encourage all family members to verbalise their thoughts and feelings – don’t offer unsolicited advice or put down what you don’t like. Instead, acknowledge and validate all feelings so everyone feels more at ease in expressing themselves again in the future.
  7. Check your understanding: when the person has finished talking, paraphrase back to them what you heard them saying to verify your understanding and ask for clarification if necessary.

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