Lisa Scholz Rizzo, MA

Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.
- Brian Tracy

Communication patterns between spouses affect conflict and the way family members cope with conflict. Effective communication tools help people find common ground to develop cooperation. It facilitates expression and honesty without fear of judgment. When this happens, the opportunity to explore and come up with creative solutions exist. When we are truly able to listen, a door opens to peaceful resolutions. Ineffective patterns of communication include emotional confrontations and the use of “shoulds”, “musts”, “have tos”, etc.. This can cause misunderstandings, insecurities, and mistrust on both sides of a conflict or dispute.

Separation and divorce are potent “life stressors.” During these times, family members are especially vulnerable to communication breakdown. When emotions take control anger and frustration lead to impasse or an escalation of the situation. People often define communication as the transfer of information between the parties; however, the key to communication comes from our ability to listen. If you’re busy planning your response instead of listening to the other person it is impossible to fully grasp what they’re saying. Experts recommend dialogue as a communication tool in any type of conflict, especially when dealing with crises. It is important to be supportive, to consider multiple sides of an issue, and to express independent thoughts and feelings (Dumlao & Botta). Practice your listening skills. Listen to understand, not to respond. Acknowledge the other person’s experience and convey the message that they and their perspective makes sense. This doesn’t mean we have to have the same opinion. We probably don’t in a conflict

When family members are given tools such as dialoguing to learn effective communication patterns, conflicts can be viewed and approached in healthier ways with more successful resolutions, such as collaboration, or working together to come up with agreements or solutions. Collaboration and communication are time consuming and require great effort on the part of the participants in a conflict, but learning effective communication skills in a family environment teaches children to develop those skills to approach conflict more effectively later in life.

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