Blending Your StepFamily: Healthy Communication, Part 2

Blending Your StepFamily: Healthy Communication, Part 2 November 19, 2014

Pam Rohr Slider1

From Pam Rohr, author of Blended but not Broken – Hope and Encouragement for Blended Families:

Picking up where we left off last week, healthy communication is a part of a strong foundation for a family.  If the foundation decays, the family inevitably falls apart – and the parents must lead the way toward effective, healthy communication.

Assertive communication clearly states what you desire and need with respect, clarity and boundaries. And, it supports the other person to respond assertively so that there is no guessing, assumptions, or insults. Also, it doesn’t stop with mom and dad. When the kids pick up on your communication styles, they will also either learn to communicate healthily, or go the other way toward aggressive or passive communication, if that is what is modeled for them. Many stepfamilies have eroded and fallen apart simply because they could not figure out how to communicate effectively.

So, how do we stop aggressive or passive communication within the family and transform to assertive communication?  There are basically three steps to begin:

1) You must be extremely self-aware.  You’ve got to be honest in determining which communication style you most often use and consciously move toward using assertive communication. I know that it’s difficult to stop yourself when you are in the middle of a heated discussion and realize how you are communicating. Therefore, it’s key that you practice it ahead of time – when heads are cooler – so that you can be more aware and in control when tensions rise.

2) Use “I” statements.  The formula goes something along the lines of:  “I feel ___________ when you __________.”  This keeps the focus on what you need without peppering your spouse with all sorts of blame and accusations. This also keeps your spouse from jumping to a defensive position, which only kills the discussion. What’s great is that this formula can be used for both positive and negative feelings, without attacking or expecting your partner to read your mind.

3) Use active listening.  Don’t assume that you know what your spouse is about to say or is feeling.  Really hear them out and then repeat to them what you understood from them.  This helps clarify the discussion and opens the door to further communication.

Keep in mind, healthy communication is a two-way street, and it takes a lot of work and persistence.  So keep at it and I’m sure that you will see vast improvements in your communication and your marriage as a whole.

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