7400.362 - Family Life Management
School of Family and Consumer Sciences
Instructor: David D. Witt, Ph.D.
Topic 7 - Communication
I. The Nature of Communication
Communication is the effective use of all our powers to get our point
across to another person.
It is impossible to "Not" Communicate - by our very silence we
are telegraphing our anger, pleasure, some meaning.
However, we can miscommunicate by deliberately or
lying, not paying attention, or remaining unaware of our real wants and
Becoming a good communicator requires practice and skill development
beyond what we learned in high school.
Failure to communicate is the #1 reason for the failure
II. Communication Channels
Communication is made up of two basic parts:
Verbal and Nonverbal communcation occurs between two people in an environment
full of background noise. Therefore, the setting for personal
is very important.
- Verbal Communication is Language
- Nonverbal Communication is everything that is not language,
such as tone
of voice, inflection, facial expressions, body language, the
of gestures, and so on.
Verbal Communication Channel's main function is the Report
Function where the Content of the Message - The Information part -
is delivered. When anyone uses a word - it has meaning because we've
all been socialized to understand it. For example that L-O-V-E means
hearts & flowers.
The verbal portion is also known as the digital portion -
words, signs, symbols used to convey information.
The English language is about 75% redundant. We have worked to evolve
language so that it is redundant to insure better communications
rates of successful message transmission).
So that we can fill in the blanks (try it!):
Redundancy - a powerful safeguard against error and
misunderstanding. Redundancy refers to the probability that patterns of
content follow or preceed other patterns - so if one part of the
message is missing or goes unheard - the receiver can still manage to
understand most of the entire statement. For example: "i" before "e"
except after "c" or How many "p's" in Stop, Stopping, Stopped (rules
about using double vowels).
NonVerbal Communication Channels comprise the Relationship
- also known as the analog portion of communication, and includes such
For effective communication nonverbal channels of communication should
be consistent with verbal channels for purposes of insuring
of meaning. For example, if you desire your partner to listen carefully
to a sious though you have, you'd adopt a serious tone in your voice,
preface your remarks with a warning that something important is coming,
put on a serious "face", tell them to listen carefully, then make your
- paralanguage ("ummmmmmm", "aahhhhhh", baby talk).
- kinesthetic aspects - pointing, waving, touching.
- voice tone
- eye movements
- looks of anger or happiness
Nonverbal channels can complicate assurance of meaning
by being unrelated - or running contrary to the words. Connotes poor
Efficient communication involves high levels of skill for both
and nonverbal channels - A sort of social intelligence.
Over time, patterns of redundancy idiosyncratically develop in family
systems resulting in communication styles particular to individual
These may be considered as "Relationship Rules" on which a couple bases
their whole style of talking. Included here might be Who initiates
concludes interaction, Who occupies family status positions.
performs role assignments.
Families who do not make full use of nonverbal communication channels,
or who have low social intelligence, are prone to inefficient
- confusion and chaos - taking on the characteristics of a randomness
senseless family communication patterns.
Symmetrical and Complementary Patterns of Communication.
- symmetrical interaction patterns - partners mirror each
Here there is a sense of equality and a minimization of differences
In the extrimis, such a relationship can escalate to intense
competition over equality - a sort of mini-arms race.
- complementary interaction patters - one person's behavior
complements the other's
This is often situational and rational and a dominant/submissive
relationship can develop.
Here there is a sense of inequality and maximization of differences.
In the extremis, such a relationship can lead to inappropriately fixed
roles - grown children still fully dependent on parents.
III. Patterns of Ineffective Communication
IV. Fundamentals of Successful Couple Interaction
- Mind Reading - assuming we know what the other is thinking
- Sending Double Messages - a message that has two
conflicting meanings -
- Gunnysacking - nursing past greivances and bringing them
up for review while trying to resolve a present conflict
- Stereotyping - all women are like that
- Using "You" Sentences - You always do this!
- Using Why Sentences - Why do you always have to have your
- "Yes, But" - Yes, we did just have a simply wonderous
sexual experience, but I still wonder if you are the one for me.
As complexity of family life increases (life in the ninties), as each
must evolve its own destiny, its own rules - the role of communication
processes becomes increasingly central to healthy family functioning.
- Complete understanding of each other's role.
- Reciprocity in role performances:
- tting Needs Met: material/biological, needs.
psychological/emotional needs. physical/sexual needs.
- Equivalence of Role Functions - a form of equality.
- Focus on the quality of interaction between the couple.
E. Communication Dysfunctions
1. Poor Listeners:
Other examples of Poor Communication Patterns
2. Impediments to Communication
- The Faker
- The Dependent Listener (placater)
- The Interrupter
- The Self-Conscious Listener
- The Intellectual Listner
- Providing Solutions
-the Double Bind - Messages from different channels may serve
to create a paradox through the simultaneous assertion of two mutually
exclusive messages. Actors pay attention to this or run the risk of
communication and poor role performance.
V. The Communication of Intimacy within Families
Double Binds are more significant in the context of close and long
relationships - need a history.
- "Put down than pencil or mommy will spank."
- Aunt Ellen stiffens as she sweetly asks for a Kiss.
-Disjunctive Communications Between Command &
-disparity between verbal and nonverbal communication.
"Honey, what's the matter?" - "Nothing!!!"
-Disqualification - sender invalidates his/her own message by
or following message with a disqualificati on:
Disconfirmation or Mystification - Receiver denies
and sender's legitimacy
- Here's what I think, but don't go by me.
- This is a dumb question, but XXXXXX.
- I'm just a poor woman / a factory worker /
inexpressive male and what
do I know?
-Punctuational disjunctions - a chain of communicative
in a relationship.
- "You're not sick, just afraid!"
- "I can see how someone like you would say that!"
Ex: Person A brings up an unpleasant subject -> Person B
to another room -> A responds by talking louder and following B -
> B responds
by ignoring A -> A responds by referring to further unpleasantries
Punctuation also can refer to the confusion about the nature of family
roles: Provider, Decider, Arbitrator.
"I can't keep the house up because you won't even pick
up after yourself
- "I don't pick up after myself because what's the use? Who could tell
the difference around here? -> It's always my fault! That's right
me -> If the shoe fits wear it -> You know all about shoes
pair you have is right there in the middle of the bedroom ->
Now that's a subject you have a lot of experience with -> Don't
me! -> Start? etc.
A. Two types of communication:
1. Instrumental commands designed for routine role maintenance and
performance. 2. Intrinsic communication designed to nurture the
full potential of intimacy, depending on the family's tolerance for
B. Intimacy is a special kind of interpersonal sharing
Each family (depending on governing family rules) will express intimacy
differently. Relational currencies differ.
- detailed, deep knowledge and understanding arising from
contact or familiar, joint, experiences.
- a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving
- sexual expressiveness
C. Patterned intimacy / Conflict cycles, while
serving to regulate
the amount of intimacies exchanged, are caused by:
Freedom versus Security Dilemma - The documented human need
(to be loved, held, caressed) seems real, there is also a "fear of
in humans (fear of being controlled, loss of personal mobility.
Family themes, images, and boundaries that are rooted in
histories, contributing to varying rates of intimacy development.
Touching, consistent use of first names, rememberances,
well-defined role structure, negotiated.
Fundamentals of Successful Couple Interaction
1. Complete understanding of each other's role.
2. Reciprocity in role performances:
Getting ---------material/biological, needs.
3. Equivalence of Role Functions - a form of equality, fairness and
is very important in today's family.
Needs ----------psychological/emotional needs
Met ------------ physical/sexual needs.
4. Focus on the quality of interaction between the couple -
pretty fast today. All families and all family members need quality
5. Show Respect for your sweetie by giving nonjudgmental
6. Using Confirmation (Acceptance of Other) Techniques
It is more Confirming to:
Improving Your Listening Skills
- -talk to a person rather than about them. Includes: Verbal
name taking them seriously acknowledging their presence Nonverbal
touching eye contact positive gestures (head nods)
- -use dialogue rather than monologue (don't lecture).
- -accept the other person and listen (don't jump to
- -treat the other personally rather than impersonally.
- -differentiate between your sweetie and others.
- 1. Become an ACTIVE LISTENER. -Look at your partner
-Concentrate on what is being said -Watch for nonverbal cues -Try to
understand what he/she is trying to say. -Communicate your interest in
the interaction by responding periodically with "I see", "I get it".
- 2. Resist Distractions
- 3. Control your emotions and your tendency to respond
before your partiner is finished.
- 4. As questons and rephrase to clarify your partner's
- 5. Summarize (better yet, write down the important points
you are trying to make. Make an outline.
- 6. Practice.
Areas of Conflict - conflict is a direct result of power
A. Money - the number 1 area of conflict for people in their first
marriage (Remarried people fight about their children more). Fighting
money can be resolved by:
Destructive Consequences of Conflict - If left
can fester into emotional wounds that are hard to heal. The best
is to never allow conflict to continue for very long.
B. Work - the 2nd biggest trouble maker is argument over time spent at
work - particularly husbands who work too much! Other areas under work
- Keeping track of debts and payments
- Careful checkbook management
- Keeping spending patterns of each person under control.
- Being in agreement about strategies for money management
- Making spending decisions together
C. Sex - 3rd in frequency of disagreement is the general area of sex -
the frequency, the quality, and sometimes infidelity.
- Should wife work outside the home?
- Balancing housework and chores with work outside - who
- Child care and nurturing of children - equal child care
- Relationship maintenance and romance - Time for the
couple or there'll
be no couple!
Frustration = the emotion that is experienced when an
need is being blocked or when an important satisfaction is being
Rejection and Betrayal - resulting in
- Rejection follows conflict involving a basic needs going
- Emotional involvement with another person usually
involves dropping the
defenses we normally keep in place - Therefore: rejection by an
we have come to trust and upon whom we rely is a very basic form of
- Lowered Self-Esteem = We chip away at each other in some
sort of Zero-Sum
Game we play. This devastates the relationship.
- Displacement - when our feelings are hurt and we suffer
loss of self-esteem,
we begin (unknowingl y perhaps) to displace our feelings from the real
cause of the deprivation (who we are angry with and why) to a more
or safer disagreement .
- Sexual conflicts, for example are often displaced to
safer topics of discussion
Psychological Games - an interaction in which each
in a conflict attacks the other - attempting to score a "win" in stead
of attacking the underlying conflict.
Attack and Defense (styles of conflict)
Psychological games are covert (hidden) and dishonest.
Constructive Conflict Resolution -
- Authoritarian Resolution - "I win, you lose!"
- Permissive Acceptance - always giving in
- Passive Aggression - "You go on, I'll just sit here -
ALONE!" - "Well, if you really want me to come with you..."
- Honest Resolution - the only strategy that has lasting
postive results is this one.
- Leveling - saying what you mean, and how you feel. Try to
be aware of the source of conflict when it comes. Face up to conflict,
addressing it without becoming defensive or hostile.
- Active Listening - Focus your whole attention on the other
while they explain their complaints. Make gestures that communicate
understanding Occasionally stop the explaination and clarify.
- Attacking the Source of the Conflict and not the person.
- Role Taking - actually put yourself in the other person's
place. Restate the problem from the other's point of view.
- Comparing Mutual Goals