how to talkIf you have ever felt like the words you speak are falling on deaf ears, you may want to check out How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

The book is addressed to parents, mostly, but I have found the suggestions presented are useful in many other contexts, too. Teachers will no doubt find them useful, as well as anyone who wants to work on their communication skills or has ever had to deal with difficult people.

The authors learned many of their principles of effective communication from their teacher, Dr. Haim Ginnott, of Columbia University. They went on to hone their approach over many years through their experiences as parents and teachers.

The following principles are taken from Dr. Ginnott’s approach:

  • Never deny or ignore a [person’s] feelings.
  • Only behavior is treated as unacceptable, not the [person].
  • Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem. “I see a [broken lightbulb].”
  • Attach rules to things, e.g., “[People] are not for hitting.”
  • Dependence breeds hostility. Let [people] do for themselves what they can.
  • Limit criticism to a specific event—don’t say “never”, “always”, as in: “You never listen,” “You always manage to break things”, etc.
  • Refrain from using words that you would not want [anyone] to repeat.
  • Ignore irrelevant behavior.

The book presents these ideas using amusing vignettes of common scenarios and how best to handle them. If you like this book, you may also be interested in the following by the same authors:

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too  

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children

Between Brothers & Sisters: A Celebration of Life’s Most Enduring Relationship

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk 

Today is the first annual National Day of Listening, sponsored by StoryCorps. The purpose of the day is to encourage you to listen to and record a story from the life of a relative or friend. The day after Thanksgiving is ideal since many people have the day off from work, and many families gather for the long weekend.

Capturing memories is beyond any price and you – and your children and grandchildren – will be glad you did. History taught in school may be about dates and big events, but the real flavor of history is in how people lived every day and how those big events affected them. Recording the story of how your Dad rode his horse every day to the one-room schoolhouse, or how your grandmother cooked elaborate meals on a wood burning stove not only brings them to life once again, it keeps them alive for future generations. Find out how your Uncle Bill felt when he returned from the war in Iraq, your Mother’s stories of moving away from home for the first time to go to law school, of the time your cousin broke his leg playing on the swing set or how your brother managed to flip your Dad’s car – twice. Listening may be the greatest gift you can give both to the storyteller and to yourself.

StoryCorps website has some excellent resources to get you started – how to get ready for the interview, how to actively listen to the speaker, how to record the stories (either in writing, on audio or on video) and even offer a Question Generator to help you get started. They also encourage you to share your stories through their website and list several that are available to listen to for inspiration.

For more information about StoryCorps and their goals, visit their website or check out Listening is an Act of Love by David Isay, a collection of some of the most inspiring and moving stories that have been recorded so far. You’ll be motivated to not only record some of your family’s stories today, but to make it an annual holiday tradition.