The stable home/family situation of CAF members is a key contributor to positive morale and organizational readiness. However, emotional reactivity in one family member often results in a similar defensive reactivity in another, so that conflict escalates.
This cycle can undermine our ability to gain critical situational awareness in the family context. For example, our reactivity to the behavioural acting out of our child/teenager may prevent us from uncovering that being bullied at school is the trigger for their behaviour. Or our reactivity to our partner’s display of anger prevents us from discovering that it is a sense of being abandoned (and therefore fear) underneath the anger.
Recognizing, understanding, and calming our own emotional reactivity, and then using active listening skills, can unleash the power of feeling understood within our families. John O’Donohue, Irish poet, author, and priest, rightly expressed that “love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging.”
As we become curious, ask questions, and seek to understand our loved ones, the following listening skills can be used to nurture understanding at home:
- Attention: Give the speaker your full attention (Don’t multitask). Turn your body toward them and make eye contact.
- Focus: Focus fully on what the speaker is saying, not on what you’re going to say next.
- Feelings: Identify the feelings behind the message, how the speaker feels about the topic they are sharing.
- Observe: Watch body language to see if it reinforces the message or is inconsistent with what the speaker is telling you.
- Restate or Rephrase: If you want the speaker to feel heard, and you want to reinforce you’re hearing correctly, rephrase the message.
- Determine: Verify you understand correctly. After paraphrasing back, simply ask, “do I understand correctly?”
By: Capt Graham Lawrence
Graham is a BTL Chaplain with PSS-Base Borden and a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with the CRPO.