Constructive Communication in Families

by Mary Kay Turner

“Love you.”
“Love you too.”

You probably have heard that, or at least half of that, end to a conversation. You may have participated in it, or it may even be a habit. Sometimes other information you know about the relationship may cause you to wonder how the love is shown in the relationship.

How do we show our love in relationships? Is saying “I love you” necessary? Is it proof of love? Is it all that is needed to show someone your love?

The other things we say, the way we say them, and the way we treat each other tell us much more about the relationship. Perhaps the most important parts of the relationship are the attitudes and actions of the people involved.

In every relationship it is important that each person respect the other person as a valuable human being. In families it is essential that spouses respect each other, that parents respect their children, that children respect their parents, and that children respect each other. It is also important that respect and love be demonstrated in the language and behavior used in each interaction.

What kind of behavior shows respect in a relationship? Probably the best way to show respect and love is by listening, really listening, to another person. Sometimes it may even be necessary to stop doing something that may seem very important and make eye contact with someone to show that it is important to you to know what that person wants to say. You can use phrases like “Tell me more about that” or “I see” to help a loved one continue. Using nonverbal cues like maintaining frequent eye contact, nodding your head, and leaning slightly toward a person show your interest and encourage the him/her to continue. Another way to urge the person to go on is to echo or repeat a phrase you heard. You probably know the opposite effect of the statement, “I don’t have time to listen to you right now .”

The words you use when speaking also show the person how much you value the relationship. If you talk about efforts the person made, things accomplished, or hard work done, you let the person know that you are proud of those things. Using positive words to describe behaviors can help people develop good feelings about themselves and about their relationships with you. Calling someone by a given name or an endearing nickname also sends good feelings. On the other hand, use of belittling names or negative adjectives, even if that is “just the way you talk”, sends the message that the person doesn’t rate very high in your opinion.

Remember, interaction that focuses on negativity and disapproval may leave a family member or friend feeling let down, but listening and responding with positive comments may help a person feel better and happier after talking with you.

Mediation Services of Adams County has trained mediators available to help you work through strained family relationships, neighbor disputes, or other conflicts for an economical fee based on income. If you would like more information about Mediation, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County at 717-334-7312, or check out our website, http: //

Mary Kay Turner is a teacher who is also a board member, volunteer mediator and trainer for Mediation Services of Adams County.