Tips for Effective Sibling Communication
Updated: Aug 15
Siblings. What can I say, sometimes you hit the jackpot and you grow up best friends and never experience discord. Other times, you struggle not to rip one another’s heads off. And then there are the middle-of-the-road siblings: you aren’t best buds, but you also don’t fight every time you talk. Often, how siblings communicate with one another dictates whether the relationship “works”. If you’re experiencing tension, or you never speak to your siblings in order to avoid fighting, you may benefit from learning effective sibling communication techniques.
Why is Communication Important with Siblings?
Sometimes, avoiding one another just makes sense so you can keep your mental health strong and positive. However, if you want a relationship with your brothers and sisters, it’s imperative to learn how to improve communication with them.
Siblings who know how to effectively communicate with one another provide each other with the kind of support no one else can provide, thanks to their shared experiences growing up together. When you and your sibling know how to speak as well as listen to one another with kindness, love, respect, and empathy - you have a best friend for life. A friend who will stand by your side no matter what the world throws at each of you. An ally when your parents begin to age and need you and your siblings in substantial ways.
Life’s easier when sibling communication is en-pointe. If your family relationships are struggling with not just your sibling communication, but also family communication, there are ways to salvage the relationships by improving the ways you all communicate with one another.
Set the Stage to Communicate Instead of Fight with Siblings
It’s absolutely easy for me to tell you to communicate instead of fight with siblings. What’s not easy? Learning effective communication skills and then practicing the skills you’ve learned. So, if arguing is the only way you communicate these days, how can you improve your relationship through better communication?
Meet at a Non-familiar Location
Places and spaces matter. Certain places may conjure up stress and tension because you’ve had bad experiences there, such as a horrible argument. Find a place that you’ve never been to before, but is easy for each sibling to get to. Make it easy for everyone to show up, and have no excuses to cancel based on proximity to their homes.
Tensions are high. More often than not, those tensions come from some deep scars and resentments stemming from when you were kids. Whether it is warranted, or not, parents are often contributors to many issues between siblings. This isn’t a slight to parents, we’re trying really hard and parenting the best we can with the tools we have. So, when those tensions have hit an all-time high, and you’re hoping to talk without it becoming an argument….make the conversation a siblings-only one.
Put Your Smartphones Away
Turning off the distractions shows respect for your sibling, and shows dedication to having a healthy and productive conversation.
We get it, life is important. We have work, and kids. It’s next to impossible to turn your smartphone off - BUT, you can put it on silent and turn it face down. Before even heading to have your sibling chat, let the people in your life know you might be out of contact for a few hours and to only call or text if there’s an emergency.
Participate in a Healthy Sibling Interaction
Creating a safe space to communicate with your siblings is the first step, but once you’ve chosen a location and put those phones away, it’s time to actually effectively communicate with your siblings!
Take Turns Speaking
It’s important to take turns speaking. We all have the urge to try to respond to something that was said. The problem with immediately responding, or hearing something and developing a response in your mind: you shut your ears off and stop listening.
Instead, just listen. If you have to, have a pen and pad on the table and quickly make a note on the paper and get back to listening. You’ll have your chance to speak, so you also need to listen. Deal with it. It’s part of growing up, improving relationships and truly participating in healthier conversations with your brothers and sisters.
Keep Responses Positive
When you do have your turn to speak, respond in a positive way to what you’ve just been told. You also need to share your thoughts and feelings in a positive manner. Don’t get into that defensive mode and attack your siblings, or say flippant things that are meant to upset them.
Be kind. Be positive. Be the adult you are, not the hurt child. Get yourself to therapy in order to work on that hurt child if she keeps coming out when you feel attacked, or judged.
Get Ready to Compromise
Brace yourself for this announcement, but here it is: you’re an adult and sometimes that means you can’t have it your way EVERY DANG TIME. Compromise is how adults handle their business. Now, I’m not saying be a doormat. Stand your ground when you believe whole-heartedly in something. However, figure out what you can be more flexible with and get to compromising with your siblings. People are different, and compromise is the key to healthy communication between adults, including siblings!
Set Healthy Boundaries
Our siblings know how to push our buttons. You grew up together. You each know exactly the best ways to set each other off, and there are times family members will set you off on purpose in order to get the upper hand in a disagreement. We’re all guilty of doing it. And, unless you set healthy boundaries, and make your boundaries clear, those buttons will continue to be pressed and you will continue to be set off.
When you feel yourself becoming heated, walk away. Don’t get sucked into an argument where you all end up saying things you’ll regret. It’s a sound way to handle feelings of anger or regret so more problems aren’t created long term.
Rules of Sibling Communication
Creating safe spaces to meet and talk, along with setting up the rules for your sibling communication may not work. It’s a sad fact, but sometimes no matter what you do and how hard you work towards improving communication with your siblings, fights happen anyway. Unfortunately, negative experiences with siblings can affect your mental health and how you see the world. It can also have an effect on the way you raise your own kids. When you’re ready to work through some of the affects the breakdown in sibling communication has on you and yours, reach out for help.