Good family relationships require good emotional and spiritual health coupled with the ability to communicate and solve problems. Unhappy families report either a lack of communication or bad communication. Dr. Nick Stinnett spent twenty-five years studying successful families. His research found six rules for good communication.*
- Rule #1 – Allow Enough Time. Talking may be spontaneous as chores are done or it may be planned. Time is needed to talk about the pleasant things of the day. Even when talking about a problem, what starts the conversation may not be the real issue, but it will be reached as the conversation proceeds.
- #2 – Listen. All of us have probably heard the old adage God gave us two ears but only one mouth. James warns us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Listening should be active and not passive. You shouldn’t be racing in your thoughts about what you will say next—listen to the person who is talking and also watch for the nonverbal cues, facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
- #3 – Check It Out. Sometimes we need to check out what the other person means by their words, moods, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. We can’t read minds, and we may miss something communicated indirectly unless we check it out.
- Rule #4 – Get Inside the Other Person’s World. Each of us has his own unique experiences. These experiences are a lens through which we view the world. Successful communication requires empathy – understanding the other person’s perspective.
- Rule #5 – Keep the Monsters In Late-night Movies. Successful families with good communication avoid communication killers. They keep the “monsters” of communication locked up. The “monsters” are disrespectful judgments. Critical and demeaning behaviors are caustic to relationships.
- Rule #6 – Keep It Honest. Strong families have openness and honesty. They also avoid manipulation. Honesty occurs in an atmosphere of kindness and love. Courtesy and consideration are practiced with openness. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:15, 25, ESV).
*Dr. Nick & Nancy Stinnett and Joe & Alice Beam, Fantastic Families, pp. 77-88