Proper communication requires patience and understanding from all involved members. It requires focusing on the problems and concerns as a team. The following six steps will help strengthen your family as you reach an acceptable solution together.

Be available

So many times we tell our family, "I'm busy," or, "Later," and, "Not now." What we are telling them is we don't have time for them; their needs aren't important enough to stop, listen and advise. I know this isn't what is meant, but this is what is heard. Obeying this command, they turn to others or hide within themselves. Both solutions make future communications difficult and could lead them to make improper choices.

Be available when they are ready. Drop whatever you are doing.

Leave distractions behind

Give them your full attention. Don't be thinking about what is going undone. This is not the time to multi-task. This is the time to let them know you care and are concerned about their problem as much as they are. They will not believe this if they notice you are thinking about other things or actively involved in other tasks.

Don't answer the phone. Better yet, turn it off. Turn off the TV, smart phone, tablet, gaming device and the computer. Put down your book and walk away from any writing, drawing or painting.

Focus and stay mentally involved in the conversation.

Listen with patience

Listen with intent and interest. Intent to help solve the problem, to invite Christ-like love, to hear and to see what is being said. Interest to recognize the problem and to come to an understandable, workable solution. Don't assume you know the answer before hearing the complete problem or concern.

It's so easy to stop the conversation and tell them you've been there, done that and then proceed to provide a solution. Unfortunately, what worked for you may not work for them. Hear them out.

Remember when you were a child, and you were told "you have two ears to hear and one mouth to speak?" Listening is as important as speaking with the right words. Listen.

Listen carefully to the problem with patience and an undivided attention. Only then can an acceptable solution be reached.

Communicate with Christ-like love

Communication requires the sacrifice of your time, patience and understanding. It's not the time to be a dictator. Instead of telling your family how it is or is going to be, follow Jesus Christ's example and use love. Don't assume family members know how you feel. Regularly show it and say it.

Family not only hears our tone, they also see our body language. Make sure your body is saying "I love you, no matter what." Speak with affection not anger. Be truthful, compassionate and respectful. Be cautious as unhealthy criticism tries to escape your lips. Refrain from using accusatory words. This puts the listener on the defensive and breaks down communications. (Avoid words like "you" and "you're." Avoid body language that points sharply at the listener.)

Don't be afraid to say what you think as long as it's done in a caring, loving way. Choose words that can be understood by them and are uplifting. So many times, I hear, "I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid of how you'd respond." If your responses are considered with love, your family will not be afraid to tell you. Remember, to avoid accusatory responses, yelling or jumping to conclusions.

Never end communication in silence. This leaves communicators isolated and doesn't solve the problem or concern. If silence is too long, family members may feel hurt and reach the wrong conclusion.

Communicate with Christ-like love and show your family you love them, "no matter what."

Refrain from being judgmental

Speak with understanding and not criticism and pointed words. Don't attack, point, misjudge, or assume you know the answers until you've heard all the problems or concerns. Ask for clarification so that you and your family understand the problems and concerns. Give advice and allow them to use it their way. Remember, they are not you. Listen and advise with the understanding it's given in love and without expectations.

Know you are not perfect either, and don't be afraid to say you're sorry. This teaches family members to say they're sorry and that your home is not a "do as I say, not as I do" home. A sincere apology binds a family together and provides the needed bond for future communications.

Speak and listen without judgmental thoughts and words.

Use these steps in your marriage

Good communication is important for a strong family and marriage. Treat your spouse with the same understanding and considerations whenever you're involved in a discussion. Your long, happy marriage will thank you.

Communication is listening, watching body language and paying attention to the emotion behind the problems and concerns. Listen to your family, understand what they are saying and make sure they understand what they are saying. Respond with love and concern without being judgmental. Here are some other ways to improve communication in your marriage.

Keep your body language and emotions relaxed and welcoming. Listen to your family's voice and tone. Watch their body and emotional responses. You'll know if you need to remember any of the above steps or that you're communicating effectively and strengthening your family.

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