8 tips for more positive, effective communication with your kids, partner, and friends

# Ready to have more positive, effective communication with your kids, partner, and friends?

Communicating effectively takes patience, skills, and lots of practice! Whether you’re talking to a parent, child, friend, or partner, these strategies can help keep your conversations on track and your relationships thriving.

In this post, Dr. Jacqueline Nesi from Brown University, provides 8 simple tips for improving communication with just about anyone. If you're looking for a more comprehensive guide specifically for conversations with your teens, have a look at our Parents Guide to Difficult Conversations with Teens, which you can get here (opens new window). And now, without further delay, here are Dr. Nesi's 8 tips for more positive effective communication.

1. Pick a TIME TO TALK when both people are ready. Avoid times when others are tired, in a rush, or extremely emotional.

2. Use ACTIVE LISTENING. Nod your head, ask questions, and repeat back what you have heard. Whenever possible, use open-ended questions and statements to encourage responses that are not just yes/no. “It sounds like you felt embarrassed when she said that to you.”

3. If the conversation gets too heated, TAKE SPACE. Make sure you come back to finish the conversation later. “It seems like we’re both feeling pretty upset about this. Let’s take a break from this conversation and come back to it in an hour.”

4. Practice VALIDATION. When we validate someone, we are telling them that their behaviors, thoughts, or emotions make sense. Validation de-escalates conflict and makes conversations go more smoothly. “It makes sense that you feel angry right now” or “If that situation happened to me, I would feel upset too”

5. Practice using AND instead of BUT. This prevents others from feeling defensive and makes it more likely they will be able to listen. “I understand that you’re upset you can’t go to the party, AND it’s my job as parent to make sure you’re safe.”

6. ASK what the other person is looking for. Sometimes, we rush to solve a problem when it’s better just to listen. “How can I be helpful right now? Would you prefer for me to just listen? To think about solutions to the problem? To help you take action to solve it?”

7. STAY FOCUSED on a single issue or topic. Don’t bring up past issues or frustrations. Be present in the conversation (no looking at phones or e-mail).

8. AVOID CRITICISM and invalidation. Try not to say or imply that the other person’s feelings are “stupid,” “crazy,” or an “overreaction”.

These were adapted from Rathus & Miller (2015)

# About the Author

Dr. Jacqueline Nesi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a Clinical Psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital. Dr. Nesi earned her undergraduate degree at Harvard University and her graduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Nesi is an expert in the role of social media in adolescents’ peer relationships and mental health, with a focus on depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and the National Science Foundation. She has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Adolescent Health and Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and her work has been featured in popular media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and Teen Vogue. She has also served as an invited speaker for the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Dr. Nesi is passionate about understanding how and for whom social media influences adolescents’ mental health, so as to identify and intervene with youth most at risk. You can learn more about Dr. Nesi here (opens new window).


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# Do you or your child need support right now?

If you or your child are in a crisis situation please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones.

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