COVID-19 has impacted the world in many ways. People have been living in a bubble for much longer than expected at this point. We are all living in different levels of fear: Fear for ourselves, fear for our loved ones, and fear for the world. COVID hasn’t just impacted the fear in our lives, but has also given us many new challenges to overcome. A big challenge many families and couples are facing is the struggle to communicate well.
We all think we have mastered communication. We talk to others, ask for what we want, comfort others, and generally get by in life with the level of communication we have. What if I told you there are ways to communicate more effectively?! One way to go about this is realizing people have different styles of communication. One of the big issues we may encounter is that some people enjoy the talking part of communication more than others while others are better at listening.
So, the question is… how do I make sure I am communicating effectively with the people in my life? There are a few ways to go about this. One of the most important things to do to make sure you have good communication with your kids, partner, parents etc. would be to have a conversation about what you need, to feel heard and cared for.
Different people need different things from others to feel heard and understood. We tend to respond to others in the way we would feel most heard and cared for, but we may be leaving out something essential that someone else needs to really feel like their needs are met. You can start that conversation by even telling them what you need. Maybe something like, “Hey, I really feel heard when you do _________. How can I make sure I am meeting your needs and making you feel heard?”
I know that may feel weird at first but starting the conversation can lead to a better relationship with the individual(s) you are around most and would like to communicate with more effectively. Once you have a better understanding of what the other person needs, there are a couple short and easy, but effective activities you can do to check on how well you listen and understand what others are saying. We have a tendency to get stuck in our own heads, and may even begin to plan our responses while the other person is still talking (yes, most people are guilty of this). So how can we make sure we are hearing what we need from the other person? This is where a simple listen and repeat activity can be helpful!
What is a listen and repeat activity you ask? Well it is exactly what it sounds like. Pick a topic (preferably something nice to start). Then spend about a minute listening to your partner(s) talk. Then it is your job to repeat back what you heard. If they felt you missed something important they then would have the opportunity to correct you if necessary. Then you switch roles and it is your turn to talk. Your partner(s) would then listen to you and if they missed anything you felt was essential you may want to tell them or make note of it at that time. As you build this skill you will begin to notice the types of information you remember well and what you typically forget. You may notice that you are able to listen for information more effectively and in turn your communication with your peers and family may improve!
Miscommunication can cause tension and frustration in relationships of all types. So if we have the skill to be able to sit down and say, “I heard this _____. Did I miss something?” then we can avoid being on completely different pages in a conversation. Checking on understanding, truly listening, and approaching everything with love and openness can really make a difference in our homes and in our lives.
COVID has taken away a lot of good things and things we hope to get back someday. Let’s at least take this time with our families to learn how to communicate effectively and meet the needs of the people we love!