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Try Conversational Activities to Improve Family Communication

Q: Our resolution this year is to improve our communication as a (busy) family. Several weeks in, we're doing better about keeping in touch by phone, text and email. But something still seems to be missing.

Jim: Did you know spoken (or written) words account for only 7 percent of communication? The rest is conveyed through our body language, face, eyes and tone of voice. Think about that. When we communicate with our family members primarily through text messages and email, we're losing more than 90 percent of our ability to connect on a meaningful level.

Thriving families share a common trait: They spend time together interacting face-to-face. But many families struggle to have meaningful discussions. If that sounds like your household, you might try some of these ideas to get your family members talking:

First, get the ball rolling with a simple question game around the dinner table. The first player thinks of a person or thing to be and says, "Who am I?" or "What am I?" Then everybody else takes turns asking questions and listening to the responses until someone comes up with the answer.

Second, ask open-ended questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer. For example, "What's been the best part of your week so far?" or, "What made it so good?" Or you could ask, "If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be and why?"

The possibilities are endless, but the point is the same -- to prime the pump and get the waters of personal conversation flowing. Because without that, your connection as a family could easily wither away.

For more ideas to help your family thrive, go to

Q: I've been married for about 3 1/2 years. I think my wife and I have a pretty good relationship, although she doesn't always do things the way I'd like. When I try to talk about such things and make suggestions, she seems to close down. Is there a way to help her see my point of view, or am I missing something?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Whether it's the right sweetener for our coffee or keeping our home at a certain temperature, we all want our life to function in a way that suits us. And when something doesn't work the way we like, we usually try to control it. Unfortunately, many people employ a similar strategy in their marriage.

Controlling behavior can often occur because one spouse doesn't feel loved and validated by the other. So they try to control their spouse's actions to ensure they get the relationship they want. But taking charge over a spouse doesn't foster connection and love; it destroys it because control erodes partnership and oneness, the very foundation of the marital relationship.

Here is the hard truth: If you control your spouse, you're in danger of losing your marriage. A spouse who feels controlled will eventually try to escape. That may be through an affair, a divorce, or, at the very least, the spouse may spend all their time with friends or in another part of the house.

The solution is to give up the role of "boss" and to begin cultivating a relationship of warmth and openness. That requires give-and-take, likely including some compromises. It may take the help of a counselor, but when a couple learns healthy ways to connect and become equals, a strong marriage is just over the horizon.

If you need some help getting started and would like to talk to one of our staff counselors, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) or visit our website listed above.

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at or at




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