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6 Big Mistakes That Destroy Family Relationships

6 Big Mistakes That Destroy Family Relationships

Family should be a person’s first source for love, acceptance, and support. Unfortunately, many extended families are failing miserably as the people within the family do things to undercut family unity. Understanding the problem is the first step in finding a solution.

6 things that destroy extended family include:

1. Insults and Criticism

Words carry weight. In some cases they can carry the weight of the world. When unkind words are said to family, they hurt. Your family is supposed to be your source of encouragement and support. Negative words damage the core of family relationships. Some family members may say things off the cuff and think that because these things were said casually, they don’t hurt the other person. The truth is that such words hurt, however they are said. When negative words are spoken to family members it creates a chasm in the relationship. It takes time and positive interactions to repair the harm that is done when insults, criticisms, and jabs take place.

When there is any outpouring of these negative words to a family member the chasm can grow so great that it can almost seem beyond repair. Any relationship can be resolved with apologies and forgiveness, but the hurt can still remain long after words are exchanged. Be careful with your words. Remind yourself that as family you are there to be one another’s greatest supporters in life. Tearing others in the family down with words is destructive to the family unit. Keep the old adage in mind when speaking to your family “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

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If there are people in your family who have problems with words, then set the example and set it strong. Use words that encourage and uplift family members. Doing so makes you a person that others want to be around. People don’t want to be around people who make them feel bad. They want to be around those who make them feel good about themselves. Help your family by looking for the positive in each and every person, so that you can set the example of using words that uplift fellow family members.

2. Gossip

Gossip is very damaging. Most often gossip occurs when someone is upset by something related to the person they are gossiping about. It may make a person feel better temporarily, but in the end it does not solve the problem as the gossip itself is certainly not done out of kindness or love. If you have a problem or issue with someone in the family then go to them directly. You don’t need to announce your issue in front of the whole family. Some people do this to force family members to choose sides in a situation .

When sides are taken, there is a divide in the family. Instead, go to that person privately with whom you have a problem. Discuss the issues, but do so with the the goal of reconciliation. Doing so with hardness in your heart or wanting to attribute blame won’t solve the problem.

Voice your concerns in a manner that helps them see things from your perspective. That way they may better want to heal the relationship and rectify any wrongs. Don’t talk badly about family members behind their back. If they have some drama in their life and it has nothing to do with you, then don’t spread their stories around. Tell yourself “not my monkeys, not my circus”.

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3. Lack of Inclusion

An Ask Amy article was posted online that clearly puts family inclusion into perspective. Here is that wonderfully articulated response from Amy Dickinson of the Chicago Tribute:

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    Inclusion of family members is essential to family unity. Include all family members at family functions. Even if you “know” they are going to say no. Ask anyway. The hard feelings come because of failure to ask and failure to include. It is up to them whether they attend whatever function or trip you are inviting them to, but the most important part is that they are asked. If your goal is family unity and love among all members, then include all members in family gatherings and functions. Don’t find excuses to not include, as that is wrong and will create hard feelings.

    4. Deception and Lies

    Deception in a family is destructive. The truth always prevails. Sometimes it may take years or even a generation for the lies and deceit to become known, but know that they will come to light someday. If you can’t be honest with your family, who can you be honest with?

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    Lying to family or using deception to keep secrets leads to brokenness in a family. This brokenness comes from trust being corroded. The bigger the lie, the bigger the corrosion. Some lies, such as secret children born from an affair, can create insurmountable corrosion that will leave a family damaged for generations.

    Your actions have consequences. Not just to you, but to your extended family for generations to come. It is much better to admit your wrong doings and work toward healing, than to lie and work to carry that lie around indefinitely (or until you are found out). Don’t burden yourself with lies. Be open and honest with your family. If you have done something that is hurtful to family members, then you need to apologize and make an effort to rectify the situation for the sake of family unity. Trying to hide the truth only compounds the hurt. The longer the truth is hidden, the more compounded the hurt.

    5. Failure to Accept Differences

    Children who grow up in the same home with the same parents, same discipline, and same guidance do not turn out to be the same exact adults as their siblings. We all have differences. Allow others to be different. Just because you are family doesn’t mean you have to share the same political views or even the same religion.

    People will grow up and have different parenting styles and lifestyle choices, but it is not the job of family members to judge. Love and acceptance starts in the family. If a family is not providing this to one another, then they are fundamentally failing as a family.

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    If you choose to put a foothold in the differences and create family strife because of differences, then the extended family unit is ultimately damaged. Accept people for who they are and for where they are in life. Acceptance of a person for who they are, is the ultimate form or love.

    6. No Apologies and No Forgiveness

    Apologies and forgiveness are the glue that keep a family together. Nobody is perfect. At some point in time you will hurt a member of the family. It is up to you to say the words “I am sorry for…”. Those words can heal wounds and create a stronger family bond. When you apologize to a family member, the message you are sending to the person is that they matter and that you don’t want ill feelings between you and them.

    Not apologizing, is sending the message that the person does not matter or that their feelings don’t matter. Failure to apologize is a personality flaw and weakness of character. Be the bigger person and apologize when you do something wrong against a family member, whether your words or actions that hurt the person were intentional or not does not matter. What matters is that the apology takes place. You can explain intentions, but you can’t make someone unfeel being wronged.

    When someone apologizes, be a gracious forgiver. Families need one another. Don’t hold grudges, as that is a burden to you and it harms the family. Forgive and show your forgiveness with your actions as well as your words. This means that if you forgot to invite a family member to a birthday celebration, then ask for their forgiveness and offer to do something to make it up to the family member like taking him or her to lunch. Actions speak louder than words, so make your apology count by making your actions parallel a heartfelt apology.

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    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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