A friend of mine recently posted an insightful observation on Instagram. As most people are quarantined to their homes, working together is a new experience, and likely a struggle. My husband and I work together everyday, so quarantine life isn’t much different than regular life for us. For many others you’re now stumbling over each other, working in between making dinner and taking care of kids, going from having an entire day apart to suddenly 24/7 shoulder to shoulder. Even if you already worked from home, having a spouse around can disrupt a well put together schedule. There will be more dishes to do, more meals to cook, more stress, on top of the possible anxiety and financial strain of being off work.
That being said, there are a few questions you can keep in your back pocket to not only ease the stress of being around each other, but build better habits of communication through these less than ideal times.
1. "What do you need most from me right now?" This question was our biggest take away in pre-marital counselling. Men have a predisposition to want to fix things, so when their wives are upset they think how can I fix this? Women on the other hand don't need things to be fixed. A lot of the time we just want to be heard and understood. When I am feeling down or having a hard day, Phil can ask "what do you need most from me right now?" and I can give him a simple answer of exactly what I need i.e. "I just need a hug."This question allows us to take an actionable step towards helping without trying to 'fix' something that probably isn't fixable.
2. What did you hear me say? We all perceive the world a little differently, whether thats due to past experiences or mood of the day. Often times I can say something to Phil and think I am communicating clearly, but he hears something different than what I've said or vice versa. Say we're heading out for dinner and Phil has had a busy day at work. I casually say "are you going to change before we go?", thinking after a long day he might want a different shirt or a fresh pair of socks. Phil, having had a long, tiring day, perceives this as "I hope you're not wearing that to dinner." An honest miscommunication that could cause an avoidable argument. Asking "what did you hear me say?" before jumping to conclusions can be a life saver.
3. Can you do (insert task here) in (time)? This one I learned due to a lot of frustration from living with my parents. Things were asked of me and clear expectations were not set. My mom would ask "Tiffany, can you do the dishes?" I would agree and decide I was going to wash them after I finished reading this chapter, or wait until a commercial break. What my mother meant was can I do the dishes right now. Cue an angry mother scrubbing away at the dishes and a confused teenage girl slinking back to her bedroom. From that experience I've learned to lay out clear expectations when asking Phil to do something or help me. Can you wash the dishes at the next commercial break? Can you empty the garbage can at some point today? Clear expectations lead to happy parties on both sides and also leaves room for Phil to adjust my expectations if need be. I can do that, but can it wait until intermission? Etc.
4. What can I do for you today/tonight? When ether one of us is having a difficult day, feeling down or is just super busy, we like to ask what can I do for you. What is one task I can do to either cheer you up, ease your burden or relieve your stress? As the markets crash around us during this COVID situation, Phil is feeling the weight. He left to do a few meetings and before he left, knowing I can't change the markets, I asked what can I do for you tonight? His answer; Can you collect the garbage. A simple task that will make his evening a little easier. By me collecting all the garbage and recycling, he can come home, put it out and go straight to the couch after. No one is a mind reader, and although we do our best to be intuitive to the needs of our spouse, sometimes it's a better idea to just ask what can I do for you?
5. Do we have enough in the tank to get us home? In this house we are big fans of The Five Love Languages and Love and Respect. We sort of meshed the two together and now use those tools to check up on the status of our 'Love Tank'. My main love language is quality time and in times of busyness and chaos Phil will ask, do we have enough in the tank to get us home? Meaning, is your quality time tank full enough to make it through until we can spend that quality time together or are we on empty already. It's a great way to check in and make sure that I am feeling loved in the way I need to be. Each of us have a different love language, and we can often let tanks run dry if we aren't careful.
"Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life." Brian Tracy
What are some of your favourite communication tips? Do you have go to tricks to better communicate within your relationships?