So . . . this week’s post will be a personal one. As much as I love telling other people’s stories, it has been difficult to go out and find them when they’re not spontaneously shared with me. So my challenge for next week is going to be to connect with either a stranger or someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Stay tuned.
But, this week, I want to talk about something that has been on my mind recently: communication. More specifically, communication with our loved ones. I don’t know about you, but the way I talk to my boyfriend is completely different than how I talk to my friends. Which reminds me . . . of something my mom used to say that used to drive me crazy. Anytime I’d yell or let my anger get the better of me during a discussion, she’d always reply, “Save it for your friends!” And that one comment frustrated me beyond belief. Because my immediate thought was: “Why on earth would I speak to my friends like this?” Now that I think about it, that was probably her point. Why do we lash out at the people closest to us? Our family members? Our boyfriends and girlfriends? Why is it that the biggest fights result from seemingly benign discussions about household chores?
Here’s how it usually goes with my boyfriend. He’ll comment on a chore that didn’t get done (or vice versa). And if I’ve had a long day (and sweeping the terrace completely slipped my mind) I get defensive. Then before I know it my mind floods with questions like: What does he really do around the apartment anyway? Wasn’t I the one picking up after him yesterday? Where does he get off calling me out? Which I then tend to say to him out loud. And of course he reacts . . . and I react to him reacting, and then the fight begins, causing us to devolve into petty insults.
I’ve discussed it with my friends, and we’ve come up with a reason for why we’re especially hard on the people closest to us. It’s because we know that we’re free to act on our emotions without serious repercussions. Because they’ll love us no matter what. But I think it’s also because we have different expectations of our loved ones. Unlike our boss or an acquaintance, we expect our family members, our boyfriends and girlfriends, not to trigger us. We expect them to know us intimately, inside out. We expect them to be responsible for our emotions.
I’ve read so many blog posts and books about good communication at work, with friends, and at networking events. But I’m realizing that good communication skills don’t only serve me in those specific situations — they serve me at home too. That it’s in my best interest to communicate in a way that promotes harmony, in a way that seeks the win-win. And I am learning that, even if an emotion arises in me, I have a choice whether to act on it or let it pass through. Sometimes it helps me to acknowledge the reasons why the emotion arose in the first place. So here’s the little trick I’ve been using recently. During those tense household chore discussions, I think to myself, Yes, yes. Your self-esteem has taken a hit because you didn’t do everything you set out to do. I know it hurts, but it’s OK. You’ll do what you can to improve the situation now, and you’ll adjust your routine for tomorrow. But don’t speak out of anger or you’ll steer the conversation off track. And then instead of reacting I remain silent. I take a moment to formulate a measured response.
And you know what the great thing is? When I treat myself with compassion, my partner naturally does too. When I don’t react out of my own emotion, when I don’t react to his, we’re able to return to harmony much more quickly. I try to remember that in my boyfriend and I’s shared space we have goals — just like in any workplace. And when I hold myself to a higher standard of communication, my environment reflects it. At the end of the day, we’re partners and we work together towards peace.
Do you have any tips for better communication at home? Are you also guilty of being swept away by an emotion? Let me know in the comments down below!