Decreasing tension and conflict in your daily communication

There are many books on how to stay calm when one faces a conflict at home. Having pre-teen children, I feel the need to brush up my communication skills.

A friend of mine suggested a book by Marshall Rosenberg called Nonviolent Communication.

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Surprisingly (as the book is not about parenting per se), I found a lot of advice from the book applicable to my daily communication at work and at home. Here are some bits that worked for me.

Communication steps to stay calm and be more effective. There are four steps to follow: (1) observe (without blaming or criticising and with compassion); (2) express your feeling (e.g. angry, concerned, helpless); (3) state what your needs or values are (a preference not a specific action) and (4) request a concrete action you would like to be taken.

Most of us have never been taught to think in terms of need but rather about what’s wrong with other people when our needs aren’t being fulfilled. Shifting emphasis to what I need rather than blaming my children, defuses my own tension when we have a discussion. For example, instead of saying “I can not stand that you are staring at your phone all the time when I am trying to talk to you”, I will say, “Seeing you glued to the phone during the family meal makes me feel frustrated, as I would like to spend our dinner together talking to each other with 100% attention, so I want you to leave the phone at your room when you come down for dinner”.

Discipline without punishment It is in everyone’s interest that people change not in order to avoid punishment, but because they see the change is benefiting themselves. When a child fear punishment (physical, emotional or withholding the privileges) or motivated by guilt ( “Mummy is very sad if you get a bad mark at school”) , s/he focuses on consequences, not on her/his values. So, when you are about to go for a punishment think about Q1: what do I want this person to do? and Q2 What do I want this person’s reasons to be for doing it?

Importance of expressing appreciation not as manipulation but a true praise Compliments are often judgements, however positive they are. Positive feedback is used sometime as a way of influencing others. Learn to express appreciation to celebrate, not to manipulate. One way to do it is to say what action you are appreciating, what need it fulfilled and how it made you feel.

The author also wrote a book calling Raising Children Compassionately, The Surprising Purpose of Anger, We Can Work It Out which you may find interesting.

Feel free to drop me email at (addressed to Anya) with your thoughts and comments.