Families are the most basic social units in society with regard to the creation of relationships, and thus it important to understand the dynamics that govern interactions among individual family members in order to develop a better understanding of the society in its entirety. Every family has its own unique dynamics dependent on the personality traits of its individuals. Apart from helping people to understand the family and societal operations, understanding family dynamics enables people to understand problems that families face and, subsequently fashion appropriate professional interventions.
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One prominent feature that helps in deciphering, a concise understanding of dynamism in families, and establishing lasting bonds among its members is communication. Communication exists in both verbal and non-verbal forms. This paper explores the implications of non-verbal communication in dynamic families and discusses the most appropriate intervention strategy for such a family. A dynamic family is one where members possess traits or behaviors that distinguish each from the other, especially in relation to coping with situations common to all of them, such as communicating.
Importance of Verbal Communication
Although non-verbal communication is important in understanding social cues, verbal communication presents certain advantages that are critical in the formation of strong family bonds, especially in dynamic families. One such advantage of verbal communication within the family setting is the provision for clarification of information. Non-verbal forms of communication such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language allow people to communicate aspects such as discomfort, anxiety, and disgust without having to utter words that others might find offensive (Carnegie, 1990).
Although such cues are critical in understanding the personality of a person, non-verbal communication sometimes creates ambiguity and misunderstandings that are difficult to resolve without verbal communication. For instance, waving is a hand gesture that often communicates a myriad of messages. Depending on the context, a wave of the hand might imply a greeting or dismissal of an idea, among other meanings. Therefore, it is possible for two people to perceive two distinct meanings from the same gesture. This kind of confusion can oftentimes occur in dynamic families where individuals possess different personalities, thus dealing with issues differently.
Secondly, verbal communication makes it easy for individuals within a family setting to express their emotions without fear of misunderstanding. Expression of emotions is especially important as it prevents instances where individuals bottle up emotions, thus resulting in psychological meltdowns in the future. Verbal expression of emotions reduces feelings of vulnerability while eliminating the need to use assumptions as a basic instinct in the household (Fussell, 2002).
Verbal communication allows individual family members to express their opinions regardless of their age. When the head of the household is the only one to make vital decisions without consulting other family members, such members develop feelings of neglect, which can potentially lead to resentment and rebellion. On the other hand, the verbal communication of opinions accords every member of the family a chance to express his or her ideas regarding vital issues, thus leading to soundness in the decision-making process and reducing instances of contempt for one another.
Additionally, according to Fussell (2002), verbal communication allows for individual members in dynamic families to understand each other’s personality traits better, thus reducing the chances of misconceptions regarding each other’s behavior. Fussell (2002) explains that sometimes individuals in a family unit can focus so much on developing their own individual personalities that they lose focus on changes in the personalities of other members of the family. In such instances, family members can misinterpret one’s personality, and such confusion eventually results in conflict and the eventual development of a discordant family unit (Fussell, 2002).
A good example of such a scenario is one where a family member adopts silence as a way of coping with anger, while another member adopts the same strategy for purposes of relaxation and meditation. In such a scenario, although both members adopt the same element into their personalities, they convey different messages to each other, and the rest of the family, and this scenario results in confusion and conflict. Both members of the family, in this case, convey messages in need of clarification, which can be achieved through verbal communication.
Another advantage of verbal communication over the non-verbal form in any dynamic family setting is that it enforces individuality, which, according to every member of the family, the recognition he or she deserves. Through airing opinions using verbal communication, individual members of a dynamic family ensure that every other member recognizes their presence and respects their individuality (Carnegie, 1990). Lack of such communication often results in tyranny on behalf of one family member and contempt, thus leading to discord.
One of the most adequate methods of intervention for addressing problems regarding poor verbal communication in dynamic families is the use of family therapy to boost self-esteem. Therapy involves seeking the aid of a professional psychologist to enable family members to understand the problem, decipher coping mechanisms that each member has been using to deal with the problem, and allow each member to choose appropriate methods that work for him or her (Carr, 2006). The main aim of therapy, in this case, is to address the problem for each individual member of the family while doing it in a wholesome manner as a family unit. Self-esteem comprises inward perceptions or beliefs that individuals have concerning their abilities and appearance, often in comparison to other members of society or family.
For instance, in a dynamic family with two children whereby one is more confident and thus more sociable than the other, the less confident sibling is likely to develop low self-esteem and believe that he or she lacks the same social ability than the other sibling. In such a situation, the sibling with low self-esteem is likely to keep verbal communication to the bare minimum as a coping mechanism. Therapy works to correct such beliefs and create a positive outlook for the less sociable sibling regarding his or her abilities to interact with other people, and this increases self-esteem (Nichols, 2009). Although the goal for such therapy is often theoretically simple, the process usually entails concise exercises for the entire family whereby some methods work better than others do for some members, hence resulting in complexities in the achievement of the set goals.
However, most psychologists use similar methods with few alterations depending on the patients due to the varying reactions and coping mechanisms that different patients embrace. The three basic stages of therapy for the improvement of self-esteem in the family setting include making contact with the family, distracting the status quo, and integrating new skills into family interactions (Rasheed, Rasheed & Marley, 2011).
Stages of Therapy
Stage 1: Making Contact
One of the most important steps for psychologists when making contact with a family dealing with poor verbal communication is to reach out to each member on a personal level. The strategy ensures that individual family members know that the psychologist acknowledges their individual worth, which improves the chances of building a relationship based on trust. Trust is essential as it ensures that the individual will open up and makes valuable contributions to the therapy session without reluctance. This practice also results in acceptance of the existence of the problem on behalf of the client, in addition to the espousal of the therapist into the forum as a non-partisan member in the session (Nichols, 2009).
During the initial sessions, when the psychologist reaches out to the family members, he or she asks questions that allow him or her to understand the family dynamics, including aspects such as problem resolution and coping mechanisms. These questions help in the determination of whether certain problems are unique to specific family members or common to everyone and whether the therapist needs to take a wholesome or individualistic approach in the development of a suitable solution.
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The next step in this stage involves sharing observations and hypothesis that the psychologist makes during the questioning process. At this point, it is important for a psychologist to consider everyone’s feelings and ensure that the observations do not portray him or her as being judgmental (Carr, 2006). The essence behind this point is to ensure that the psychologist maintains trust throughout the process, which the success of the therapy depends on depends extremely on it. The psychologist also needs to create hope for an amicable resolution to the problem and readiness for change. This part of the first stage involves exercises such as the formulation of a binding informal contract, albeit only to family members. By doing so, a psychologist creates confidence amongst family members throughout the entire therapy process and subsequent family relations after the conclusion of therapy (Carr, 2006).
Stage 2: Disturbing the status quo
Even though most people are afraid of letting an outsider influence their family dynamics, during instances where families experience problems, it is important to create changes where necessary. In this case, it is vital for the family to develop awareness of communicative roles and patterns using their experiences. This phase requires a psychologist to question the individual members on their perceptions on what roles each has held in the past regarding verbal communication and what they think is a suitable position for the family members (Rasheed et al., 2011). For instance, during verbal communication, a speaker plays an active role while the listener undertakes a passive role.
Such a dynamic is necessary in order to ensure clarity and understanding between the communicators. Although in most instances these roles are interchangeable, sometimes they remain constant especially when the status of the individuals dictates a conversation. For instance, in most armies, high-ranking soldiers often hold the active role in conversations while lower ranking soldiers hold passive roles. Psychologists help family members to identify and determine the suitability of active and passive roles.
The main goal for psychologists at this stage is to create new perspectives and enlighten family members on possibilities available when certain dynamics change to accommodate more verbal communication (Nichols, 2009). For instance, it is easier for a child to ask for a parent’s help on schoolwork when he or she does not perceive verbal communication as dependent on hierarchy of power in the family. By discussing the existing situation, possible changes, and challenging the family members, a psychologist enables family members to contribute solutions to their own problems, making such solutions more agreeable and enforceable.
However, in order to do this, the psychologist has to take advantage of trust, which is present in the forum, and move the family members to reveal aspects of the family’s interactions that they prefer to keep hidden. By doing so, a psychologist ensures that the family solves the problem in its entirety instead of tackling areas that form comfort zones of discussion and leaving weighty matters unattended (Nichols, 2009). By establishing all the causes of a problem, the family can develop workable solutions that incorporate every individual member with the help of the psychologist.
Stage 3: Integration of new skills
This last stage establishes whether the family has understood skills in the previous stage and provides examples of ways in which to put such knowledge for use in the future. In most cases, the psychologist asks the family to reenact new skills learnt through model experiences. The psychologist then allows the family an opportunity to apply the new skills in their daily lives with occasional progress meetings where an analysis of their progress and discussion of any new development happens (Nichols, 2009).
How the intervention works
According to Carr (2006), therapy works by letting the family members identify the problem and develop lasting solutions that suit each individual member of the family with the help of the psychologist, while preventing recurrence of the same problem. Carr (2006) explains that unless every family member understands the root of the problem, and why certain solutions work best, there can be no real long-term progress.
That the therapy sessions happen in the presence of every member of the family demonstrates the importance of such an undertaking for everyone. Therapy empowers a family to solve future problems through appropriate communication, thus reducing feelings of vulnerability, neglect, or helplessness among members. This form of intervention works theoretically, as people are supposedly receptive to solutions that they play an active role in developing because this gives them a sense of value with regard to their input in the solution generation process. Additionally, this form of intervention creates an understanding of the problem from different perspectives, thus complying with the provision of the objectivity essential in solution generation (Rasheed et al., 2011).
In my opinion, this form of intervention is highly likely to work as it accounts for every family member’s needs, encourages individual input, and exercises verbal communication throughout the process without endeavoring to change the family dynamics. Any method that alters the dynamic manner in which a family interacts will most likely create a change that eventually causes a rift in the family social dynamics, thus working counter intuitively. Family therapy is thus the best option in this case.
As the basic social units in society, families face disparate dynamics, which should be understood in a bid to address the problems that come along the way. Verbal communication plays a critical role in families as it helps in clarifying issues, thus eliminating the possibility of assumptions. In most cases, assumptions of what the other person means via non-verbal cues leads to conflict, which may degenerate to broken families, but verbal communication mitigates such problems. The best form of intervention for a family dealing with poor verbal communication entails conducting family therapy sessions with the aim of boosting the self-esteem of each member. This method solves the family’s problem without interfering with the dynamic nature of the family’s social interactions. The intervention goes through three stages as explained in this paper. The therapy issues discussed in this paper are important as they help in keeping family ties and relations intact.
Carnegie, D. (1990). The Quick & Easy way to Effective Speaking: Modern Techniques for Dynamic Communication. New York, NY: Pocket Books. Web.
Carr, A. (2006). Family Therapy: Concepts, Process and Practice (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Web.
Fussell, R. (2002). The verbal communication of emotions. Oxford, UK: Taylor & Francis. Web.
Nichols, P. (2009). Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education. Web.
Rasheed, J., Rasheed, M., & Marley, J. (2011). Family therapy: models and techniques. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Web.