Thursday, April 16, 2015


There are a variety of communication patterns in families.  I have observed over the years that good communication within the family  plays a significant role in  happy relationships, healthy  emotional development, development of thought, language, creativity and thinking.

Yet, I have come across some truly  terrible communication patterns in families that I know intimately. These families  are of course, families of my cultural background i.e. Indian. I am writing this as I have been thinking about this and feel bothered by the painful communication styles I am seeing. I watch with helpless anger and despair the pain,rage and damage the communication is causing people. I have tried to talk to the people about it. However, they don't listen as they believe there's nothing wrong with them.

Families with functional communication only:  When it comes to communication, people are different. Some talk a lot and some talk little. Some talk only when necessary and some talk to chat, gossip, while away the time, catch up on news, etc. I have seen about a half dozen persons who have only functional communication. By functional communication, I mean that they talk only to ask you to do something, or ask for information or berate you for doing something wrong. If these three reasons for talking did not exist, they don't talk at all! They are also annoyed by other people chatting as they think it's a waste of time!
I have observed that in India, there are several parents who talk to their children for functional reasons only. They do not engage  in chatting with the child, singing to the child, telling stories, making jokes, praising the child, etc. Every word out of their mouth is a command or a reprimand or a question. I feel terribly sorry for the kids who grow up with such parents. I have observed this in my own family and my family is 'educated', urban-dwelling, middle-class and with access to all the information on the internet and other media. The only words addressed to the kids (be they babies, children or teens) is :"get ready for school. Did you finish your homework? Did you finish your breakfast? Dont play for too long. Enough TV . Stop texting. Study for your exam. Go change your dress"
Even  10% of the talk between parents and children does not include chatting, praise, joking, casual talk 'without a purpose', discussions around the dining table.
The same functional talk is there between husbands and wives, especially those who have been married for over 3-4 years. (Those married for over 20 years hardly talk!) There is no expression of love and affection. Talking is strictly for information. There is either functional communication or angry rants. There is little talk otherwise. The lucky couples who get along well, discuss, gossip, joke, chat idly about anything and everything,. The many  couples, stuck in loveless relationships,  hardly ever communicate without a reason.
To this day, people who talk less are 'respected' in India and  labelled as 'reserved' which is a positive label in India!
Top-down communication:  In many families, there is what I shall call a top-down communication. The 'head' of the family, talks like he's educating the rest and the rest have to listen, without questioning or challenging what he has to say. I have seen bossy husbands talk to their scared wives and many 'strict' and egoistic parents talk this way to their children. I have seen a doctor who talks about his work at the dining table. I love listening to him as he's very interesting. Yet, he is always 'educating' or teaching you and he has little patience to listen to what others have to say. So it becomes a one way communication and others at the table get neither the chance to voice their thoughts or question his.
The people at the lower end of the hierarchy, don't get a chance to communicate.

to be continued

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