Anita Vangelisti Shares Tips for Better Communication

Vangelisti 2009

This week, “The Handbook of Family Communication,” edited by Anita Vangelisti, the Jesse H. Jones Centennial Professor in Communication, will receive the distinguished book award from Family Communication Division of the National Communication Association (NCA) at its annual conference in Chicago.

“In the Handbook of Family Communication,” researchers examine communication across the life of families, including marital communication. Scholars from different educational specialties, including communication, psychology and sociology, explore topics such as the influence of characteristics of family relationships on specific communication processes.

“Receiving the Distinguished Book Award from the Family Communication Division is an incredible honor,” says Vangelisti. “’The Handbook of Family Communication’ is an edited volume, so the award is a wonderful way to recognize the work of all of the authors who contributed to the project.”

Vangelisti recently discussed the influences that led her to study communication and emotion in personal relationships, especially among family members.

“While I was an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, I taught personal development courses at a local fashion college,” says Vangelisti. “What I found in teaching these classes was that the material on social skills had the most impact on students and, many times, when I discussed social skills and social interaction in class, students would tell stories about their families. It was clear that the students’ family relationships were very important to them; that’s one of the main reasons I became interested in studying family communication.”

Based on her years of research, Vangelisti has some tips for better communication among family members.

“First, pay attention to family communication – watch how you communicate yourself and how other members of your family communicate. Respond to family members—including children—in ways that show respect and caring. Think about what is important to you and to your family: what qualities you want in your family relationships, what activities you want to engage in, and what memories you want to create and then work—together, if possible,—to make those important things happen.

“Studying family relationships and family communication has made me more aware of why I see the world the way I do,” says Vangelisti. “It has helped me change some patterns of behavior and—perhaps more importantly—has helped me create an environment for my own children that I hope will help them become happy, healthy adults.”

Vangelisti currently teaches the Family Communication and Communication and Personal Relationships courses in the College of Communication. Past books that she has edited include “Explaining Family Interactions” (1995) and “Feeling Hurt in Close Relationships” (Cambridge 2009).