It is amazing what we are capable of. We can live with people everyday, but feel lonely and completely unknown. The decay of family intimacy can always be traced to a breakdown in communication. There is no quicker way to build (or destroy) a family than by addressing the system by which we communicate.
Every relationship we have is a practice for family relationship. Some families we are born into, and some we choose. These four steps are helpful for all of our relationships, because every relationship we are in is a microcosm of the ultimate setting for human connection – the family. The way we date, the way we hang with our friends, and the way we laugh with coworkers all informs the way we will relate with our family (and vice versa).
No matter how we approach conflict and stress, there is generally one rule of thumb: don’t make it worse. Don’t add to the emotion. Don’t fuel the fire. Do not be the problem. Anything else is weakness.
If you want to drastically improve communication in your family, shift the culture from one concerned about ‘making it worse’ to one focused on honesty. Make sure each person gets to express themselves honestly without being beaten up for it.
Our families have to learn how to hear and accept the good, bad, and ugly from one another. When we try to stifle our emotions or opinions, they only return with increased intensity and a thirst for vengeance. Negative or inappropriate emotions can only be addressed after they are honestly expressed.
Stop being afraid of looking bad. Stop worrying so much about what you should be. Family units struggle with performance mentality just as much as individuals.
If you want a healthy family, it all begins with a culture of honesty.
I really hate it when people talk about their parents as if they are super heroes. Your kids don’t need you to be perfect; they need you to be real.
We are so afraid that other family members will think less of us or mirror our mistakes. The irony is that avoiding vulnerability is one of those mistakes. It cripples our ability to relate, sets us up with unattainable expectations, sabotages our honesty, and hides us from the truth.
In a family unit, we are modeling what is acceptable and what is shameful. Acknowledging imperfection should not be shameful. We are silently communicating that you are only ok if you are perfect, which leads to a rabbit hole of lies and insecurities.