NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Patterns in Families

Patterns in Families


            All families have patterns, habits, or well-developed ways of interacting with each other.  Unfortunately for some families those patterns include demeaning comments, shouting and even abuse and neglect.  In healthy families, respect is a pattern that forms the core of family relationships and harmony.

            The concept of respect is simple—but it's not easy. Respect involves feeling good enough about yourself to feel good about somebody else...their feelings, their importance, and their opinions.

            Our differences sometimes lead to conflict. If we value each other and stay away from the idea that being different is wrong, then everybody wins. Respect is not something that just happens. It takes practice. When respect starts in the family with kindness, understanding and reaching out by listening, it really becomes a very positive habit.

            Sometimes the guidelines for respect are clear; they have been spoken out loud, shared, and demonstrated. Other times, these guidelines are silently in place to follow and to honor.

Family members may give each other permission to make mistakes or even to fail when trying to show respect. As family members grow and the family changes, family members can learn to relate to each other differently.

            Listening, really listening, can improve communication and build respect with others. Communication begins by listening and then indicating that you hear what the person is saying. This can be demonstrated by focus or eye contact, body language, and reflective listening.

            Focus - Focus means that you are looking directly at the person speaking and not looking off to one side or continuing to do something else. You are focused on what is being said; the speaker is the center of attention. Listening attentively is essential for positive communication.

            Listening without Interrupting—Does your body acknowledge that you are listening? Use smiles, nods, and expressions of understanding to communicate to the speaker that you are listening. It is not necessary that you agree or disagree at this time. It is more important for the person speaking to know that his or her words are respected.

            Reflective Listening—Reflective listening involves hearing the feelings and meanings of the speaker. It is a re-statement (in different words) of what the speaker said. You, in essence, mirror the words of the speaker and rephrase them back to the speaker, checking for accuracy of understanding. This process affirms the speaker, indicates a respect of the person, and shows that you understand the speaker's message. Through careful reflection of the speaker's words, you can clarify the message and build mutual understanding.

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