When our children were young, my husband and I took a communication skills course for parents called P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training by Gordon), and I became a certified instructor a year later. I was in awe of the technique. It felt respectful and powerful, and I could see it working in my marriage and with our children and friends. Conscious communication teaches respectful socialization, open listening and non-violent creative problem solving. If the essence of this approach were modeled and taught, there would be fewer issues of emotional and physical abuse, bullying and violence. There would be a heightened awareness of the importance of compassionate listening and respectful speaking, and there would be a tendency to work out conflicts within the spirit of compromise.
I messages talk about the effect someone’s behavior is having on you. It’s powerful and authentic, and most of the time this kind of approach can build understanding and can be taught to children. On the other hand, You messages create defensiveness and non-productive communication.
Active Listening makes the person who is talking feel understood, heard and validated.
Another aspect of effective communication skills is the focus on “whose problem is it?” How many times do we interfere-instead of giving children the confidence to resolve their problem? It is respectful and serves emotional growth to allow people the opportunity to brainstorm solutions. Asking open-ended questions in which the other person can come up with potential solutions is a gift and enhances emotional IQ.
Brainstorming conflict-resolution ideas is a wonderful technique. I remember sitting around our dinner table and having one of our children lead a family meeting, and we would use the 6 step conflict-resolution approach that included brainstorming. Everyone’s ideas were welcome, written down, validated and respected. Yes, the process took a long time, and sometimes my husband or I felt a loss of patience, but at the same time, it was a connecting and stimulating family time, and the memories still fill my heart years later.
Put downs were not allowed, and neither was name calling, non-verbal negatives or disrespect in any way. Peace begins within each one of us. Let’s continue our own personal process towards walking the “peace begins with you and me” path by role modeling and teaching respectful communication.