Family communication is the most difficult skill to learn and it takes a long time to master. Unfortunately, many families nowadays are falling apart. In Hong Kong, both parents usually work and the kids are often neglected. Kids regard their parents as simply the providers of material things like toys. Siblings yell at each other over minor issues. To put it simply, we've totally devalued the meaning of family. So how do we build bridges with our parents or siblings? The answer is silence ... just listening for once. Let's see, are you the one always babbling away to your mother? Sometimes we are very self-centered and just want to get everything off our chests, so we ignore whether our parents are busy or tired. If they are distracted, we tend to think they don't respect or love us any more. But, have you ever kept silent for one moment and listened to what your mum or dad has to say about their work? Maybe you will get distracted too as these things do not relate to your daily life. In fact, a lot of the time, we use our family members to release our emotions onto. At the dinner table, squabbles often occur as everyone tries to be the first to have their say. Those who don't succeed will just stare at the goggle-box and eat until their turn comes. As a result, no one pays any attention to what anyone else is saying. The most effective solution to this problem is to have a weekly family gathering where everyone has a chance to talk while the others listen and then chip in some comments. Only by listening can we know and understand more about each of our family members, and then there'll be more forgiveness in the family. Of course, disagreements are not always bad. As Queen Elizabeth II said, 'Like all the best families, we have our share of ... family disagreements.' They can actually make life more interesting but only if we can handle them in a forgiving manner. And forgiving originates from understanding, which originates from listening. So LISTEN. Pulcheria is a regular SYP columnist.