For the purpose of the present assignment, the interpersonal relationship between myself and my grandmother will be analyzed using a discussion of intergenerational differences and the understanding of the family structure and culture that influences this relationship. There are various considerations that have determined the development of the communication style between us, but the primary factor is the way in which the middle generation, specifically my mother, interacts with her own mother. There is a very obvious disconnection between the two of them that is exhibited through the way that they passively communicate. While there are a lot of words that are often spoken, neither of them appear to actually hear one another. This is more obvious in my grandmother’s reactions to my mother’s lack of listening as she continues to repeat the same stories until she receives a response of validation. It is then very obvious that the interpersonal communication between them is not meeting the needs of either party.
I have found that, in my own relationship with my grandmother, this has often become the norm for us as well. Perhaps this is due to the examples that have been presented, but through looking at the relationship for the present assignment, I can see many areas of opportunity for improvement. It is not for lack of interest in what she has to say that I find myself tuning out the conversation. In fact, her stories and knowledge are quite captivating, to say the least. Yet, I find myself thinking about other things when she begins to talk and trying to get through the conversation so that I can go on about other things. Again, this is how things are generally accepted in the home and this example has been passed down to my own relationships across the generations.

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As age and longevity are a critical consideration when discussing intergenerational relationships, I would desperately like to improve on the interpersonal communication between myself and my grandmother. I am confident that, by using the tools and concepts that were presented in this course that I can create a more compassionate and mutual relationship between us that will help her to regain her confidence in communication and allow me to better interpret the messages that she is presenting. I feel strongly that both she and I will benefit from an improved level of interpersonal communication.

One primary area of improvement that I intend to implement into our communication is that of body language. Often times, we are not aware of how our body language is perceived and what impact a simple gesture can have on someone else. However, it is fortunate that many aspects of body language are universal and others are closely tied to cultural and familial backgrounds that are shared across the generational gap. For example, Gutman (2011) claims that smiles are contagious and this can make a conversation much more enjoyable. I realize that I do not often look at my grandmother with a smile when she is talking. I often find myself looking down at my phone or having more of a blank reaction on my face. Even though this was not intended to be disrespectful, I am certain that it was probably perceived that way. However, by making myself consciously aware of these implications, I will try to avoid distractions such as electronic devices and smile more often during our conversations.

Another area where I can improve our interpersonal communication is through actively listening. Notably, nodding and saying yes or no have become a sort of automatic response during a time where I have tuned out the conversations. By paraphrasing to show that I am listening and to help me to better interpret what is being said, I will be able to move beyond what Adichie (2009) calls the single story. I will be able to actually hear her stories and knowing what is important to her. As Chapman (1995) explains, “love is a verb” and this means that being active in communication and being involved is a way to show that I love and respect my grandmother. In this, actively listening will not only improve our communication, but it will also improve our overall relationship for the years to come. Using this technique, not only will my grandmother feel more important, but I will be able to truly understand the views from across the generational gap.

Throughout the course of this assignment, it is important to note that I sat down with my grandmother, without my phone and with a conscious awareness of my facial expressions. She and I talked for about thirty minutes and it seemed that it was the first time that we had ever truly had a conversation. I could tell that she recognized the difference in the setting because her facial expressions were also much softer than they would usually be when talking. In fact, she noted that she enjoyed our conversation and pointed out that she was proud to see someone in my generation take the time to listen without running off to text or check their messages. I responded by stating “so, in other words, you feel that my communication skills were improving.” She seemed to understanding that I was summarizing our conversation and she smiled and excused herself so that we could both get back to other things while feeling more connected to one another through our interpersonal communication.

    References
  • Adichie, C. (2009). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story. TED. Retrieved
    from: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en#t-322029
  • Chapman, G. D. (1995). The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your
    mate. Chicago: Northfield Pub.
  • Gutman, R. (2011). Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling. TED. Retrieved from:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9cGdRNMdQQ&list=PL9512E626BDAB37A3&index=1