Would you love to wave a magic wand and change your family dynamics?
The bad news is that you can never change someone else, no matter how hard you try.
The good news is that you can influence them in your interactions and communication with them.
In Part One of this series, we discussed 9 Powerful Ways to Change Your Mindset and Improve Your Family Relationships.
It is amazing how much your relationships with anyone can improve when you change your mindset. So go read Part One if you haven’t already.
Good, let’s move on to the next step in successful communication.
The key once again is working on yourself to improve communication with others. And it all starts with how you communicate with yourself.
The first step in any interaction actually happens before you start the interaction.
1. Set Your Desired Outcome
What result would you like to see? You might have a big vision of a relationship with your family that is peaceful, supportive, affectionate, fun, and loving.
And while that big vision is important, it is just as critical –if not more so–to set the desired outcome before every communication and interaction. This goes for texting, emailing, calling, in-person… you get the drift.
For instance, it’s holiday time and you would like to have a ton of fun while relaxing with your family. Every communication leading up to that event needs to align with the intention you set.
If you don’t proactively state your end result, you will just be reacting to someone else’s agenda and influence. It might work out, or it might not. Do you really want to take the chance?
2. What beliefs do you have about your family members?
Do you believe that your uncle is always going to get drunk and that your step-sister is always going to pick a fight with you?
Be curious here and start listing out your current beliefs about the people and situations you want to change. While you’re in awareness mode, ask yourself how you behave in response to each situation.
3. What beliefs do you have about yourself and your ability to change the family dynamics?
For instance, do you feel like you are powerless to make any positive change? Who are you trying to kid?
4. What beliefs do you need to have about yourself and your ability to change the family dynamics?
For instance, you may need to believe that people can grow and change. You may also need to believe that you can and are the one to make the change.
5. Make the 4 Laws of Focus work for you.
The 4 Laws of Focus state that what you focus on you find, and it keeps growing until it becomes your version of reality and ultimately, your identity.
For instance, if you focus on your father constantly criticizing your career choice and life, you’re going to see more and more of that while ignoring all the good things he might say.
Pretty soon, you’re going to feel like all he ever does is criticize you and that you can’t do anything right. Ever.
Eventually, you’re either going to be caught in an identity where you’re continuously struggling to gain his approval, or you’re going to give up. Give up on trying and give up on the relationship.
The good news is that you can use the Laws of Focus to your benefit.
Quit telling the old stories (see Part One of the series again for this one), and ignore the criticisms that are bound to keep coming for awhile. Easier said than done, I know. Use some of the following tips and tools to set you up for success.
6. Before your next encounter, make a list of things you appreciate about the person in question.
Can only think of one thing? Repeat that one thing over and over and over again. Abraham Hicks calls this a rampage of appreciation.
Can’t think of anything at all? Make it up. Yup.
Create a list of appreciation of all the wonderful traits you would like the person to have.
7. Choose to see yourself and your family members as the people you desire them (and you) to be, rather than who they seem to be currently.
In Growth-U’s Growth Mastery Program, you choose a name which reminds you of all the traits you would like to have. Other Mastery members call you that name as a constant reminder to keep your focus on where you want to be.
I have created a similar strategy for “problem” people in my life. If someone is overwhelmingly negative and critical, I create a name which helps me focus on their wise, fun, supportive side.
Try it. It works!
But what if the wounds just cut too deep?
8. Forgive… if only for your own health and well-being.
Now, I can hear you saying that I don’t know your father (or insert name here)!
I am not suggesting you forgive your problem person for their sake. You need to do it for you.
Anger and resentment take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
And they keep you stuck in your old identity and relationships. It’s time to forgive and to release.
It’s also important to know that you can love someone unconditionally, especially a family member, without condoning their behavior.
Not sure how? Follow along with this Forgiveness Tapping video by Brad Yates until you get the hang of it.
The next step is to ensure you’re effectively using all of your communication avenues.
9. Actions speak louder than words… to yourself and to others.
It may come as a surprise that you communicate far more with your actions and body language than you do with words. It is time to reevaluate what you’re communicating without realizing it.
Try this exercise: stand slouched over with head down and eyes downcast, and see how you feel. You likely feel as though your mood and self-esteem have just plunged.
Next, stand straight up with your shoulders back, chin up, and eyes straight ahead. Your confidence level and mood will skyrocket.
That is why the military spends so much time and energy working a soldier’s posture–because their goal is to take a young inexperienced recruit and give them the confidence to head into possible battle.
This is especially important since your family has that uncanny ability to make you feel like a vulnerable five-year-old.
Next, it’s time to work on your dynamic body language.
10. Create your own personal power move.
Have you ever noticed that sports teams do a power move before starting each game? For non-sports types like me, that’s the noisy action the team does to get them psyched up –and hopefully intimidate the other team into submission.
It’s another awesome way to give you an instant dose of self-confidence and energy to handle any curveballs that may come your way.
Again, just try it. First, create a move that feels really good to you. Then find a private spot and do it three times while exclaiming, “Yes!”
Do this before any encounter or event you want to ace, or even when you need a quick mood and energy pick-me-up.
Bonus: the more you do it, the faster your body and mind will respond to the conditioning and know that you’re sending the message, “It’s showtime!”
11. Treat your family members as they want to be treated.
At Growth-U, we call this the New Golden Rule.
While it’s a start to treat others as you want to be treated, it doesn’t take into account that others might want and need something different than you do.
At Growth-U, we have a program called the Four Colors of Influence: How to Align with Anyone, which helps you determine what your essential emotional strengths and needs are.
More importantly, the program helps you recognize what emotional needs your family members–or anyone for that matter– has so that you can gain the better rapport with them.
For example, your dad is critical of your job choice because he feels it can’t pay you well enough now, let alone give you financial security in the future.
He would rather see you in a well-paying job you hate (and will tell you about every menial job he ever worked to make ends meet) rather than follow your passion in a career path with no job security.
Your dad likely needs a feeling of certainty and security above all else. And his criticism is his way of conveying his worry about your lack of security.
His verbal abuse is really a cry for help to listen to him (and to soothe his own need for security). Don’t answer a cry for help with a cry for help.
Knowing that can help you understand that your dad is ironically acting out of his concern for you so that perhaps you can bury your hairpin trigger reaction to his words.
And then you can use that knowledge to lend your father the feeling of security by couching your career path in terms of the potential for advancement and investment in your future–terms he likely understands and appreciates.
The best way to figure out what emotional needs your family members need to have met is to listen to them.
12. Focus on them rather than on you.
All too often, you tend to focus on what your own needs and wants are. Then you jump in to let others know what you think, often interrupting them. That’s almost guaranteed to get someone’s back up, or at least cut off the flow of productive communication right there.
Instead, just listen. Bite your tongue if you need to.
When you do speak, ask questions, and be curious instead of judgemental.
This is the best way to determine what emotional need to meet, to get you started on the way to effective communication.
Another effective way to communicate is through speaking your family member’s love language.
13. Speak their love language.
Gary Chapman states that the 5 love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. While these are generally taught with respect to romantic relationships, they work equally well in family relationships.
Once again, you likely have the good intention of treating others as you would like to be treated. But what if your needs are different from theirs?
If your love language is Receiving Gifts and your family members is Acts of Service, you’re likely losing out on a major opportunity for gaining rapport.
Not sure what their love language is? Ask them which they prefer. Or you can see how well you know them by guessing.
For instance, my parents appreciate it far more if I give them the gift of my time and helping them around the house, rather than buying them a gift for their birthdays.
This is using the power of your actions to show you love them and to gain rapport.
Another way actions can speak louder than words is through contributing to the relationship with no expectation of anything in return.
14. Level up your contribution to the relationship.
Babies come into this world completely dependent on others to keep them safe, healthy and loved. A baby just expects this and makes their demands very clear with crying.
As children grow and become more independent, there is a stage at which bartering is common. Anyone with teenagers (or who has been one) has been through the old, “If you want to borrow the car, you need to clean your room first.”
Once you’re an adult, the mature version of a relationship is one where you contribute without any expectation of a direct payback.
The challenge is that so many people are stuck back in barter or even demand in their relationships. And they make their love conditional on it.
For instance, “I can only be happy if you do this for me, or if you act a certain way.”
Or, “You haven’t been holding up your part of the bargain, a.k.a doing what I expect of you, so I’m not going to do my part.”
Does that sound like you?
If it is, here is an opportunity to show your unconditional love for the other person by contributing your love and service to the relationship without expecting anything in return.
Now, I’ve saved the hardest for last.
What about those family relationships that are predominantly negative or even toxic? Do you feel that you can’t make the changes you want because you’re drowning in negativity?
Do you feel like you’re dreaming an impossible dream?
That is where the power of community comes in.
15. Utilize the power of Community to support you in making the necessary changes.
Surround yourself with like-minded positive people who help buoy you up as you swim through the negativity.
If you don’t have a local support network (versus a local complaining network), join Growth-U’s Daily Growth Program.
Growth-U’s community is supportive, like-minded, and like-hearted. We understand that, not only is it okay to be vulnerable, it actually makes you more powerful.
If you would like more support and accountability as you make the necessary changes in your mindset and communication, register for Growth-U’s Friends First Program.
My brother and sister just went through the Friends First program with me, and it has changed our relationship! It has even started to have a ripple effect in our family who haven’t taken the program.
My sister even commented that “I like the new me better.”
One important note, take a step back to give yourself perspective if needed. Sometimes you just need to love unconditionally from afar.
And be fair to yourself and your family. Give these tools a fair chance to work before you take that final step. You just may be surprised at how dramatically your family relationships can improve.