communication guidelines

When a family member is living with mental illness, good communication is even more important than usual. Your family member can experience stress when he has difficulty understanding what is being said or what is expected of him. It can also be stressful when there are many arguments or too much criticism. Though the following guidelines are put in the context of a person communicating with their family member living with a mental illness, they may be useful to keep in mind for all communications.

How you say something is just as important as what you say. Eye contact, tone of voice, facial expression, and body language are nonverbal behaviours that can contribute to communication both positively and negatively. Try to maintain eye contact, keep your voice low and even, show empathy in your facial expressions, and try to lean slightly towards the other person to show a willingness to listen. Sitting down may also benefit the conversation.

Physical or emotional fatigue can interfere with our ability to listen. If you have had a stressful day at work, you may not be able to pay your loved one full attention. In such cases, it is probably better to wait until you are both rested and at ease. More information on listening is available here.

Effective communication takes time, practice, cooperation and patience.