Communication for Cooperation

A well-intentioned mother speaks words of wise instruction expecting to be heard, acknowledged, and met with cooperation. When the only response from those she cares most about is a meaningless glance or flippant nod, it’s easy to understand why Mom might resort to modes of communication which are later regretted or that poorly display the dignity she desires to reflect.

A mile-long list of responsibilities, chores, and concerns weigh heavily on her mind, and so it’s no wonder that frustration and exhaustion may provoke her to employ such undesirable tactics as yelling, threatening, or bribing to get everyone doing what must be done in the ordinary course of a day.

Unfortunately, when a simple instructive turn into battles of the will, a child’s poor response ofttimes leads to other offenses, distracting from the original matter at hand. Things can spiral out of control in no time leaving parent and child confused, hurt, or worse yet, feeling unloved.

With the harmony of the family in view, let us explore several components of communication which have little to do with words but support and empower efforts to get cooperation:

  • Align your body language. When the body is relaxed, and at ease, it is difficult to provoke fear or anxiety, as the natural fight or flight reflex is not engaged. The lower aspect of the brain which picks up on these cues unconsciously communicates to a child that a level of safety exists in the interaction. Focused attention to breathing deeply, dropping the shoulders away from the ears, and relaxing the arms and hands will aide in communicating this safety effectively. The value of interacting with relaxed body language is that a low-anxiety, non-threatening climate is created which encourages an emotionally healthy parent/child interaction.

  • Attune your facial expression. When the natural default expression of the face is downturned, anything said will come across as mean or angry. Furrowed brows, tight lips, or a clenched jaw expresses hostility in its various forms. Practice curling up the corners of the mouth, relaxing the brow line and jaw muscles. Much is communicated through the face. The value of attuning your facial expression to a positive one is that the child will have a visual confirmation that your communication comes from a place of kindness with good intentions.

  • Regulate your tone of voice. A simple request delivered with a tone of voice which is high pitched or nasal may sound whiny. Conversely, a tone which is low or throaty may come across as harsh or overbearing. Communicating with a confident, gentle tone reduces the likelihood of aggression entering the conversation. The value of regulating your tone of voice is that your words are more likely to be responded to with compliance when whining and aggression are not perceived in the message.

The ability to communicate effectively isn’t isolated to words alone. One might say the spoken language is never isolated in its travels. Like a celebrity at the Grammys, words are always escorted by companions that elevate the posture and significance of the one they represent. By employing self-awareness as you speak, being aware of body language, facial expression, and tone of voice, you elevate and align the various aspects of your message and deliver a powerful, clear statement as a mother who is wise, loving, and effective as she endeavors to communicate for cooperation.