During this unprecedented time of social distancing and sheltering-in-place for our country we are surely becoming aware of how much our lives are changing. One of those changes is spending lots of uninterrupted time with family. For most, that might seem like a “norm”, but when we take a minute to think, before this pandemic most spend an average of 8 to 10 hours a day at school or work, 2 to 3 hours in the car commuting and 6 to 8 hours sleeping. When we do the math, that leaves us a possible 3-4 hours of available time for our family.
So, what are you learning about how well you communicate effectively and get along with your children, spouse, parents, or significant other? Do you now find your days filled with anger, arguments, chaos, or anxiety as you have an unlimited amount of time together? If this stay at home situation has been an eye-opening experience for you, this could mean that you could use some help with communication strategies and conflict resolution.
Below are a few strategies for communicating well that you can use in your home with those around you.
1. Actively listen. Don’t listen just to respond but understand what your loved one is expressing. Make eye contact and be present in the conversation. Take away distractions such as cell phones and television to have meaningful dialogue.
2. Ask Questions for clarification. If you don’t understand, it is okay to admit that you don’t and need more information. Repeat what you think you heard and allow for confirmation that the message was conveyed properly.
3. Validate the other person’s feelings. You don’t have to agree but allow the other person to have their own thoughts and ideas. Empathy allows you to place yourself in the other person’s situation and share their feelings. Ex: "I understand how it might have made you feel sad when I yelled at you because I don’t like to be yelled at either. Next time I will use a lower tone of voice.”
4. Use nonverbal communication that is inviting and encourages acceptance. Many people will shut down if they perceive that their point of view will be met with judgement or resistance. Monitor your posture, facial expressions, and tone of voice when communicating with others.
5. Take turns talking and listening. Who is really heard when you are talking at the same time? If you need to take a break to regroup, then set a time to revisit the discussion and stick to the agreed upon time.
Conflict can have positive outcomes when you learn to effectively work through it. Most things we avoid or deny can become a cycle and resurface, often met with negative behaviors and feelings because there is a need not being met. Learn to apologize if you know that you have made a mistake or dishonored your family member with your words or actions, with a plan of how you can show up differently in the next situation. Set a goal to discuss ways to compromise or come to a resolution where all members of the family have a sense of being heard.
If communication and conflict resolution is a challenge for you, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do you have friends who have learned to manage their family conflict well? Borrow effective strategies from those around you. If you are uncomfortable sharing with friends, then contact Renewed where we have therapist who specialize in family dynamics and can assist you and your loved ones in adjusting to these changing times of spending many hours together but in a happy and healthy manner.