Family communication Pattern and Processes by Friedman, Bowden and Jones
Functional Communication Processes
Define as the cornerstone of a successful, healthy family.
Clear, direct transmission and reception of both the content and instruction level of any
Matching meaning and attaining consistency and congruence between the intended and
the received message.
Process of constant definition and redefinition that will achieve a matching of the content
and instructional level of messages.
The Functional Sender
a) Firmly and Clearly Stating Case
Use of communication that is congruent on both the content and instruction.
Ex: Person who is angry, the literal message is consistent with the tone of voice, body
position, and gestures.
b) Intensity and Explicitness
Intensity refers to the ability of the sender of effectively communicate internal
perceptions of feelings, desires, and needs at the same intensity as he or she is
experiencing these perceptions internally. To be explicit, the functional sender informs
the receiver of how serious the message is by stating how the receiver should respond to
c) Clarifying and Qualifying Messages
Use of clarifying and qualifying statements that enable the sender to be specific and to
check out his or her perception of reality against that of the other person.
Ex: “I want..”, “I feel…”
d) Invites Feedback
Asking for feedback enable the sender to verify whether the message was received
accurately, as well as enabling the sender to gain information needed to clarify his intent.
e) Receptive to Feedback
The sender exhibit a willingness to listen, react nondefensively, and attempt to
understand. Demonstrating his receptivity and interest in feedback.
The Functional Receiver
The most important quality of a functional receiver. Focusing one’s full attention on what
is being communicated and blocking out extraneous distractions.Attend to the complete
message. Passive listeners respond with blank expression and indifference
While active listeners respond with gesture that communicate actively listening.
b) Giving Feedback
Receiver tells the sender how he interpreted the message. It encourages the sender to
elaborate more fully. Might also be done through association (Make relationship between
previous personal experiences). Paraphrasing and checking perceptions are other forms of
c) Providing Validation
The receiver conveys understanding of the sender thoughts and feelings. Does not imply
agreement but demonstrates an acceptance of the merit and worth of the message.
Dysfunctional Communication Processes The Dysfunctional Sender
Takes for granted what the receiver is feeling or thinking about an event or person
without validation. May elicit anger in the receiver, who is being given the message that
his opinion and feelings do not matter much.Another way can be as acting as a
spokesperson for another by telling someone else what the person is thinking.
b) Expresses Feelings Unclearly
The sender’s expression of feeling must go underground or be uttered in such a covert
manner that the feeling are not recognizable.Also, intensity of feeling may also be
different from the reality.
c) Making Judgmental Responses
These always carry moral overtones where it is clear to the receiver that the sender is
evaluating the worth of the other person’s message as being right or wrong, good or bad,
normal or abnormal.
Ex: Put-down statements or questions, “you should..” statements.
d) Inability to Define own Needs
Due to fear of rejection is incapable of defining the behaviors he expects from the
receiver to fulfill his needs. The sender might feel unconsciously unworthy,with no right
to express needs.Also include the expectation that the others should anticipate his needs.
Ex: Covert Request, Complaints (You never visits as oppose to Please come over
Wednesday night for dinner)
e) Incongruent Communication
Two or more simultaneous and contradictory message are sent. The receiver is left with
the enigma on how to respond.
Ex: “I’m not angry” spoken loud, gruff tone of voice
The Dysfunctional Receiver
a) Failing to Listen
Does not attend or hear the message. Might be due to distraction or simply hearing
impairment. Causes distortion and misinterpretation of the message.
b) Using Disqualification
Employ evasion to disqualify the message by avoiding the crucial issue. It is an indirect
response that allows the receiver to disagree with a message with a message without
really disagreeing.Also, the receiver might respond to a peripheral aspect of a message
and ignores the central intention or content.
The receiver seems to react defensively to the message by assuming an oppositional
posture and an attacking position. May also attack with a different issue before any
progress is made on a threatening issue introduced by the sender.
Often use by conflicted couples.
d) Failing to Explore Sender’s Message
Uses responses that negate exploration, such as making assumptions, giving premature
advice, or cutting off communication. Physical action can also cut off communication
like leaving the room, engage in busywork, or turn away from the sender.
e) Failing to Validate Messages
The receiver either respond neutrally or distorts and misinterprets the message.
(Assuming) Dysfunctional Senders and Receivers
Parallel talk: Each individual in the interaction constantly restates his own issues without really
listening to the others point of view.
Inability to focus on one issue: Each individual rambles from one issue to another instead of
resolving any one problem discussed.
Functional Communication Patterns in the Family
The first trait of a healthy family is clear communication and the ability to listen to each other.
Communicating Clearly and Congruently
(Satir et al.,1991) There is consistency between the content and the instruction levels of the
communication. The receiver is able more clearly to comprehend the sender’s message making
communication in the family much healthier. The communication pattern in a functional family
demonstrates acceptance of differentness, as well as minimum of judgments and unrealistic
criticism of each other. It is a extremely dynamic, reciprocal process. This nature of functional
communication makes it complex and unpredictable. Even in the healthiest family
communication is still tenuous and problematic much of the time.
Healthy families display a full spectrum of feelings, while more dysfunctional families were
emotionally constricted and rigid in their expression of feelings. Emotional expression has a
positive impact on children’s social competency (Boyum & Parke, 1995). Family member need
to be able to communicate their enjoyment of each other. When their responses to each other are
fresh and spontaneous, rather than controlled, repetitious, and predictable, this enjoyment can be
OpenArea of Communication and Self-Disclosure
These families would be able to discuss most areas of life and, both personal and social issues
and concern and would not be afraid of conflict. Satir (1972), Family members who are candid
and honest with each other are people who feel self-confident enough to risk meaningful
interaction, and tend to value self-disclosure. Research on marital relationship demonstrated that
total honesty and self-disclosure may not work for many couples. However, the more the
functional the family, the fewer areas of closed communication exist. Culture is an important
Power Hierarchy and Family Rules
Functional interaction in the hierarchy occurs when power is distributed according to the
developmental needs of the family members or when power is assigned according to the abilities
and resources of family members and is consonant with the family’s cultural prescriptions of
family power relationship.