Be a good communicator

Berny Unruh, K-State Extension
Berny Unruh

            A family who practices good communication skills will become a strong, resilient family. It takes practice to develop good communication skills but the benefits are immense. During times of stress and anxiety, it takes patience to be warm and respectful. If positive, respectful communication is practiced it will become a habit.

            Family communication is very important and it will determine how well-adjusted and satisfying family life is. “Basic Communication Skills” is an important section of K-State’s Essential Living Skills curriculum. The entire publication can be downloaded at There are communication activities so family members can practice sharing their thoughts. In today’s world it is important that there is family discussion about what is happening and how it affects family members.

            In addition to teaching children to share how they are feeling, it is also important to teach them to listen. Sometimes as we listen to what a person is saying, we start to think ahead to how we plan to respond. As parents it is so important to take the time to truly listen to what your children have to say. Children need to know that they have someone to trust and someone to listen to them. Ask questions to clarify and let the child know that that you understand. Effective listening does not mean that we agree with what is being said but it is important to be respectful.

            Think about the way that you speak to your children. The way we talk can either build up or tear down their self-worth. When others treat us kindly and respectfully, we feel valued and our self-esteem grows. When we treat others negatively, we feel worthless and our self-concept suffers.

            The Basic Communication Skills publication outlines how to use “I-messages” instead of “you-messages”. “You-messages” tend to sound blaming and the response might be anger and communication will shut down. An “I-message” has three parts: “When… (state the unacceptable behavior), I feel … (express feeling or behavior) because (describe the effect of the behavior).”  An example would be “When I have to make supper without any help, I feel frustrated because I don’t have any extra time to spend with the kids.”

            If all family members work on their communication skills, you will be amazed at the positive changes you will see in the family relationships.

            Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at