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Are You An “Active Listener?”

If you have established good communication with your family, you are fortunate indeed. If you recognize you could be better at communicating, you are also fortunate. It is a skill that can be learned. “Active listening” is an important piece of the communications skills set.

Dr. Donna M. Beegle, the president of Communication Across Barriers, believes good communication involves active listening. Beegle says, “Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Often when people talk to each other, they don’t listen attentively. They are often distracted, half listening, half thinking about something else.”

It may take some practice to give full attention to another. Listening to understand, not only what the other person is saying but being sensitive to the clues of what the other is feeling, is also part of effective communication. When you are actively listening, you understand what the other person is saying and what they mean. You are not thinking about what you want to say, how you feel or worse yet, ignoring the person.

Good communication skills become especially important when income is not as it was, when there is financial uncertainty, or when other factors cause situations to change.

Families living with changing financial circumstances or uncertainty will be wise to include all family members in new decisions. Set priorities and talk about how income will be spent, considering the immediate goals of each person and the family. A time of economic challenge can become an opportunity to clarify family values. Meeting the need for food, clothing and shelter puts purchasing other items in perspective. Knowing that it will likely not always be as difficult as now may provide a more hopeful outlook.

Humour is also a great tool in family communication. Even during difficult times, take opportunities for play and enjoyment in each other’s company. Laughter has a health and wellbeing effect. Laughter, besides relieving stress, brings people together. Using more humour and play in your communication can improve the quality of your relationships with family and with others.

Everyone has heard of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule of communication would suggest that you listen to others as well as you wish to be listened to yourself. With your family possessing good communication skills, including active listening, you will be helped through difficult economic times and other situations throughout your lives.

– Jo Musich is a family relations educator with University

of Minnesota Extension.

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