Davidson Institute for Talent Development
This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Gwen Hullman, who touches on key points of communication competence - including family communication style and personality factors.
Communication competence entails more than just sending a ‘clear’ message to another person. Communicators must account for the context of the situation, their own past history, the other person’s history, and other factors, such as noise, that interfere with messages sending and receiving. By attending to these factors and using feedback, the communicators can achieve shared meaning.
Communication style develops over time and can be difficult to change. Personality factors can influence our tendencies toward certain communication styles. For example, extraversion seems to be associated with many positive attributes of communication, such as assertiveness and the ability to manage an interaction successfully. It can also be associated with talking too much. Personality factors have some influence on our communication style, but after accounting for them, there is still much unexplained.
A second influence that helps to explain some variability in communication styles is family communication style. One dimension of family communication style is conversational. Conversational patterns seem to help develop communication competencies for children. Perhaps it is because in these families, children practice communication often in the home, which is normally a ‘safe’ place to make mistakes and learn.
Children learn by getting feedback from their parents about their communication patterns. They also learn by modeling their parents’ behaviors. They can learn vicariously through watching the feedback and consequences of their parents’ communication behavior. Sometimes, it is very helpful for the parents to explain the choices they make in communication events, the alternatives they decided not to use, and the potential consequences of all of their choices. This dialogue can help children become more flexible because they can learn new alternatives that might be useful in future communication events.