Keeping Your Relationships Happy and Healthy During Isolation
Caring Communication During Isolation.
Isolation is bound to challenge our relationships. We can keep them happy and healthy by being thoughtful about how we communicate. In particular, remember that communication is about listening as well as speaking.
Listening well is a component of healthy relationships that will make a big difference during isolation. The people we’re isolated with have fears and concerns about the COVID-19 situation and they need to be heard. Your teenagers will have different concerns to your partners and even though you can’t fix everything, it’s very important to listen and validate their concerns. This will help them immensely.
Two ways of listening well are paraphrasing and responding.
When I paraphrase my partner or child, I reflect back to them the emotion and content of what they’ve said. This shows them that I’ve understood what they’re feeling and what is causing them to feel that way. Paraphrasing doesn’t involve giving my own opinion or advice, I simply acknowledge what’s going on for them.
Let’s say your partner keeps complaining about how poorly the government is handling the COVID-19 crisis. It’s really getting you down. Instead of trying to argue, try paraphrasing using this structure:
You seem [emotion] about [content].
If you say, ‘You seem worried about how the government is managing COVID-19’, you are validating your partner’s concern and communicating that you’ve heard them and care. Emotions are likely to calm down, allowing the conversation to continue and be more satisfying for both of you.
How we choose to respond to someone we want to have a happy and healthy relationship with is also important.
When a conversation gets heated, there are really just three ways to respond. We can be aggressive (I win, you lose), passive (You win, I lose) or assertive (I win, you win).
Responding aggressively or passively damages a relationship. When someone has to ‘lose’, resentment and anger build and begin to erode the relationship. Responding assertively, on the other hand, helps build a happy and healthy relationship.
Assertive communication involves clearly expressing what you think, how you feel and what you want, without demanding that you must have things your way. The underlying assumption is ‘We both matter. Let’s try to work this out’.
Here’s a helpful structure for practicing assertive communication:
When you [behaviour], I feel [emotions]. What I’d like is [action].
Imagine your teenage daughter may be angry because you’ve said she can’t go out to visit her boyfriend even though he lives in the next street. She’s blaming you for being mean and boring.
You could say, ‘When you shout at me so angrily about visiting Lewis, I feel hurt and upset. What I’d like is for us to look again at the official isolation rules. And I bet you and I could come up with some fun ways for you and Lewis to keep in touch every day without actually visiting each other.’
By saying this, you’re reminding your daughter that the isolation rules are out of your control. You’re also acknowledging her frustration and trying to help her out.
Isolation is going to bring challenges, but communication in a caring way can go along way to helping those relationships staying happy and healthy.