Please note these communication strategies are for everyday situations. If you feel as though you are in danger, please call your local police department or Family Services (336-723-8125).
My partner and I get along pretty well on normal days. We have a few disagreements, we fight (because honestly, that’s normal!) and we snip at each other from time to time.
Our current situation is not a normal one.
If you are complying with CDC recommendations (and in NC, state declarations) you’re staying at home as much as possible. Maybe you or your partner are leaving for work as an essential employee, but for the most part, you’re spending a lot of time together. That, plus stress and the grief we’re all going through, and you have a recipe for communication disaster.
Here are a few ideas for making this time a bit easier for everyone when it comes to communication:
Take a Time Out – But Discuss First
If you take nothing else out of this post, this is a gem. Time outs are not just great for kids and students, as long as you talk about it first.
The moment of conflict is not the best time to set up a system for dealing with conflict, so have this conversation sooner rather than when you need to. Figure out what you will do and where you will go if you need space because of high emotions. For example, my husband and I have a rule: if you walk into another room and close the door, you get left alone until you come out.
That’s a time out.
That’s a moment where we’ve recognized that communication is not going to be thoughtful or considerate – there’s a high chance it’s going to be colored by our emotions and whatever else is going on. So, we walk away and cool off, and then come back when we’re ready to have a conversation – or go to bed, and have the conversation the next day.
We set this system up after a fight that wasn’t…pleasant. We both said things we weren’t proud of and knew if we had taken some space without invading the other’s, we would have realized that we were also stressed, tired and hungry…a recipe for disaster.
I am a big proponent of reflection. Our emotions are higher than ever, depending on how you’re coping with the current situation.
And emotions can make communication complicated at best.
Take a moment to check-in if you find yourself in a conflict or losing patience with your partner. How are you feeling? Are you upset with someone else, the situation, the moment, your work? Aside from checking in with yourself, take a moment to practice empathy with your partner. Asking them “Are you ok?” doesn’t always yield the best results. Instead, assess their situation. Are they struggling with work? How do they usually deal with pressure? Have they eaten lunch or missed sleep? Take some time to look at the situation before you jump onto communication. It might be a moment where you need the previously mentioned time out.
I have said this so often over the past few days. We cannot change the way someone else communicates, only how we respond to it. You need to give yourself – and your partner – and everyone grace. I’ve seen too many people take things personally, project, explode – and the fact of the matter is, we are all struggling right now. This is new, scary – it’s like we’re headed up a rollercoaster and we have the anxiety of the climb coming and coming – and zero relief with the exhilarating fall.
Give yourself, and everyone around you, grace. This is such a difficult time, and our communication is effected so strongly by our emotions. Take a breath and deal with it later. Grant yourself – and your partner – some grace.