Yesterday, Jose (my husband) and I were having our breakfast at the restaurant of the hotel we were staying at. At the next table were a couple, whose conversation amused and startled us at the same time. They were obviously husband and wife, but the conversation was like that of two people who met infrequently.
I have often gone to restaurants and watched families eat an entire meal in near silence. It seems to me that they have hardly anything to say to each other. If they’re ‘lucky’, they might get a call on their mobile phone, which will lead to some talk on their table!
Sometimes, I’m convinced that most of the world’s problems are due to a lack of proper communication. And where do we learn how to communicate? First and foremost, in our homes, right?
So what’s with all of us getting so lost in the pursuit of our own interests and forgetting how to really talk and listen to each other? I think a lack of communication in the family is symbolic of a lack of caring. Don’t tell me we’re all too busy. We certainly have time for inane conversations on our mobiles, connecting on social networks, watching meaningless serials and following the goriest of stories that the media sees fit to spew out. Why can’t we make time to communicate with our families?
It makes me recall Gulliver’s Travels. When Lemuel Gulliver visits the land of the Laputans, he sees that these highly intellectual people who are preoccupied with their pursuit of music and mathematics. They are so absorbed with themselves that they forget how to communicate with each other. To handle this, they appoint special workers called ‘flappers’. The task of the flapper is to take a stick with a balloon on it and touch the mouth of the person who wished to speak. They then touched the ear of the person who was to listen. This is how they facilitated communication!
Perhaps we need to employ flappers again. I think that even if we need to go for a course to learn how to communicate with our spouse and/or children – then we should make the effort to go. It will be time and money well spent.
However, there are simple things that we can do that can make us more communicative with each other:
Schedule time for talking – Make sure that there’s room in your family schedule for talking. Sometimes we’re so busy with work and activities that we forget that we need to talk. If you need to cut down on activities that you or your children participate in – then do so.
Make sure the family eats together – Try to schedule at least one meal together as a family. During this time have a ‘no-gadget’ rule – no television, no mobile phones, etc. If the phone rings – let it ring. You can always call someone back. Use meal times to talk about the day.
Make dates with your children – Take children out for a fun date individually. Don’t just go for a movie together – but if you go for that movie, discuss it over a meal.
Undertake a project with your child. Let her take the lead – while you observe and discuss.
Create family traditions – Even a simple exercise like tucking a child into bed can be a chance to talk.
If you really want to communicate there are endless number of ways to do so. To give you an example, my Dad is one of 15 siblings. Together with in-laws and grandchildren it’s a big family, spread around the world. When my Grandmother passed away, my cousin created a family Yahoo group. It’s always wonderful to see the siblings communicate with each other there – some of them are in their 80s but they’re sharing jokes, forwards, information and crazy memories online.
So get creative and get talking.
Corinne Rodrigues used to be a teacher to teenagers and has a lot of experience counseling and working with troubled youth. She is now a full-time blogger at Everyday Gyaan.