Understanding: The Goal of Healthy Communication

Gwen Randall-Young

When we have children, we are training the next generation of humans. That is a big responsibility to be sure. We are now seeing so much conflict and disharmony from the individual to the global level. We shake our heads in disbelief, but perhaps we should not be so surprised.

The same negative dynamics that play out in the world are similar to what is happening in some families, in our schools, and in our culture. Judging, criticizing, taking sides, and gossiping about others are toxic human behaviors that are incompatible with creating peace.

Getting stuck in one’s ego perspective does not allow for respectful communication or effective problem solving. There is no room for understanding the other. As parents or educators, we can model a different way of communicating that could change those destructive patterns.

For example, sometimes parents feel that in a discussion with their child, the child does not listen, and is argumentative. The irony is the child may have learned poor listening manners from the parents. Parents tend to skip over the part of the communication where the child states his point of view.

This happens for a few reasons 1) we think we already know what the child’s argument will be, 2) we already know what our answer will be, 3) we really do not want to be having the discussion.

Now, imagine you wanted to make a point to your boss, and he or she came to you with the above mindset, refusing to listen. You know how you would feel. Children get frustrated and either start responding angrily or disrespectfully, or they shut down and do not even bother to discuss things with parents a because 1) they already know what the parent’s argument will be, 2) they already know what the parent’s answer will be, and 3) they see no point in having the discussion with us. What we have is dead-end communication, so why bother?

The more positive approach is to listen with an open mind. Allow the child plenty of time to state their case. Commend them for the good points they make. Then, gently communicate your point of view.

Take the time to ensure they understand why you think as you do. This way, even if your answer is still no, the child at least feels heard, and that his ideas and feelings are valued. You might even find a compromise. If this happened globally, what a different world it would be. Children learn what they live, so we must be ever conscious of what we are modeling.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.