7 Tips for Communication to Save Relationships While Working from Home

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When working from home with loved ones in a pandemic, prioritize communication, listening and dealing with conflicts improves relationships.

EACH OTHER IS ALL WE HAVE, especially in prolonged crises like this Coronavirus pandemic. 

In Part 1, we talked about taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Here I am focusing on relationship tips, as we are all working from home 24/7 with our loved ones for many weeks or maybe even months. That can be a strain on relationships.  Conflicts, healthy or unhealthy will arise. Unless we prioritize and invest in communicating the right way, conflicts can become arguments and tension that hurt relationships when we need each other the most. Part 3 will address telecommunity issues.

1 ) Prioritize relationships

Everyone has at least two major stressors right now for ourselves and loved ones:  Coronavirus and financial losses (or fear thereof.)  

If you have lost money in the stock market or lost your income (or are worrying about it) due to the Coronavirus crisis, but you and your loved ones are Coronavirus free, think of yourself as blessed.

Focus on the loved ones, not money. In a crisis we cleave to each other to get through the tough times. Handle relationships with extra care, understanding, and compassion.

Steve Jobs said this famous deathbed speech: “…God gave us the senses to let us feel the love in everyone’s heart, not the illusions brought about by wealth. The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love. That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on…”

2) Share your vulnerability.

Here is a story about how Nelson Mandela dealt with fear:  Mandela was riding on an airplane when it was starting to violently shake from turbulence in the clouds – everyone was scared to death. People looked at Mandela and saw him reading a newspaper while all those around him were in a panic.  The mere act of him holding a newspaper had calming effects on those around him.  After the plane landed, people asked him if he was scared. He said, “Of course I was scared! I was pretending to read the newspaper.”

Claim your fear, – it is a BRAVER thing to do than hiding it.  A better way of dealing with fear and anxiety is to name it, acknowledge it, and share with your loved ones.  

It takes more courage, not less, to share one’s vulnerability.  It is an act of trust and love. So the listener must not judge, slight, admonish, or lecture.  Honor that trust. Show compassion.

3) Embrace healthy conflicts instead of avoiding or suppressing them.

It is not realistic to always have harmony in any relationship. When there is discord, disagreement, and healthy conflict, the only way to resolve them is through thoughtful communication, genuine understanding, and respectful listening.

Avoiding or suppressing conflicts will accumulate more misunderstandings and resentments, and can lead to explosive eruptions that hurt relationships.

4) Do not make it into “I’m right, you’re wrong”.

No one likes to be wrong. Even if you are truly right, acknowledge the other’s point of view nonetheless, and if possible, complement it as a different perspective, to show that you understand them and where they came from.  Having differences is not a situation with winners or losers.  Make it into an opportunity for empathetic understanding of each other’s points of view, and calmly agreeing to disagree, with respect.  

Leave your ego and assumptions out of the conversation. 

Bring your curiosity for his/her points of view into the conversation.  

It does not matter if you are right; what matters is respecting many ways of looking at facts

Whatever the disagreement, remind yourself that your loved one(s) may not be around some day.  Death can happen to any one of us in a pandemic. Is it truly paramount that you have to win the argument?  Appreciate what you have in common. Respect the differences.

5) Ask questions that are not provocative.

We are all wired in different ways, and we don’t think alike. When working from home, relationships operates best when when everyone feels understood.  To find out what’s on another’s mind, ask questions that make the other person feel respected. Here are some samples:

(Yes:) “I’m confused ….can you help me understand?”

(No:) Assume that you know what the other person is talking about without clarification.

(Yes:) “I value your perspective … what do you see that I don’t?” 

(No:)  “What you said makes no sense.” “I know better than you.”

(Yes:) “What do you see as the downside in my perspective?” (inviting others’ input and opposing viewpoints.)

(No:) “I am absolutely right; you are totally wrong.”  “Don’t tell me what to do.”

Be the big-minded person, be the humble person, be the “stupid” person with questions. Don’t let your ego get in the way when you genuinely listen to others.

Continue asking questions until you’ve heard and understood what’s going on in another’s head, even if you will not be persuaded. The other person will feel that s/he is heard. If you both are trying to make a decision, try to understand where the other’s point came from first; then you will understand each other better and get down to real issues and root causes, thus making better decisions. 

6) When working from home, be a good listener.

Sometimes people just want to be heard, they don’t want advice. They are not seeking any resolutions.  Then be a good listener and just nod your head, and say “I hear you.”  Don’t shut anyone off or interrupt constantly showing impatience and disrespect. Accumulated hurts will end any loving relationships. Value the relationship, not the subject matter. 

Think first what the OTHER person would feel, before you open your mouth.

Being present is a selfless activity.  We are not present until others say we are.Simon Sinek.

7) When you get on each other’s nerves, think of each other’s best traits.

We all have our quirks and do things differently, when we spend time around the clock in the same place with our loved ones during weeks of sheltering in place, small things can be irritating to each other, especially when the big daily horror news reports are fraying our nerves already.

When we find our loved ones’ quirks annoying, try to think of his/her best personality traits, or let him/her know about it in a thoughtful and humorous way, so you both can laugh about it. Ask your loved ones to let you know what your own habits or behaviors are that bother them. Communicate.

Respect each other’s personal space and privacy.  Assume nothing. Ask first.

I am NOT very good at all the above.  I regretfully get my button pushed and lose control.  I am deeply thankful to my loved ones for their forgiveness and love.  We are all on the same journey to be better at communicating with respect, empathy, gratitude and love.  If we keep practicing these 7 tips through trial and error, while we are hunkering down with our loved ones, this crisis may bring us closer. That will be a great silver lining in this dark cloud.

As a branding expert, getting my clients’ message across as music to the ears of their target audience is the key in telling their stories on websites, videos and social media.  

To be continued in Part 3: “A wakeup call for Americans to think like a community.”

Many thanks to Glenn Perkins, President Executive Forums Silicon Valley, for his insights and wisdom related to the above.

By Joanne Tan, March 21, 2020. Edited by Glenn Perkins.  © Joanne Tan 2020.

About the author:  Joanne Tan is the CEO at www.10PlusBrand.com, a full-service brand marketing agency helping businesses decode the DNA of their brands, create differentiating verbal and video content for websites, and amplify their brands’ impact with social media, content marketing and SEO.

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