Being cooped-up with other people is not the easiest thing in the world. This is especially true when those people are family members! But, whether they are family, roommates, or co-workers (for most of us when we get back to non-quarantine life) it is a good idea to have a solid communication strategy!
As a Life Coach who specializes in Mindfulness and Mindset, one of the things I talk about A LOT is how to use Mindful Communication when interacting with others. Mindful Communication is thoughtful instead of reactionary. Mindful Communication strategies are premised on the values of compassion and empathy. But, because they are based on speaking with a calm and confident tone, and setting boundaries, they do not mean that you become a doormat!
Sharing a space with the same people day-in and day-out becomes much more joyful when we use Mindful Communication strategies. These four have been my go-to’s to keep me sane through years of teaching in a large department in a university, working at home as an entrepreneur while homeschooling part-time and now the Covid-19 quarantine!
FOUR COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES FOR QUARANTINE & BEYOND
- Take Care of Yourself: Remaining peaceful, patient and in an emotional state where you don’t want to run screaming from your cooped-up environment starts with self-care. I don’t mean binge-watching Netflix and eating junk food all day while your kids play around you. When I’m speaking of self-care I’m talking about things like meditation, exercise, and practicing mindfulness throughout the day.
I also encourage using Mindset techniques to lift their mood. Think of these as “self-coaching.” Starting your day with affirmations and gratitude sets a positive tone for each day. Then, if challenges arise during the day, I can use mindset coaching techniques. For example, I may ask myself, “Is this really something I need to worry about?” Or, I’ll dig deeper and ask myself, “Why am I worried about this particular thing?”
- Communicate Without Controlling: Living with the kids’ mess every day absolutely makes me want to demand that they CLEAN THIS @$*# UP! Buuuttt… over the years I found that this is not the best communication strategy. Not only does it rile everyone up, but it also makes all of us feel pretty terrible. And quite frankly it has never worked with my husband and it does not work at all with my now-teenagers!
If I start with mindful self-care, I don’t feel the need to lose my head and start controlling everyone around me. I can ask nicely that they clean-up after themselves. I can calmly request that they give me a reasonable timeframe in which they will get it done. This is a much more effective strategy than demanding and controlling. And, it creates a more peaceful environment overall.
- Offer Support, Not Solutions: This is a communication strategy I learned in my teaching career. It’s a teaching technique that allows students to use critical thinking to learn, instead of just memorization and forgetting. I also used this when managing teams of Teaching Assistants. And then, wow did it help with homeschooling and homework help with my kiddos!
To effectively use this strategy you start by listening. Often this is enough to allow the person to vent their frustrations, thus alleviating their stress, and allowing them the emotional headspace to figure out what they need. However, you can also take this one step further and suggest to the frustrated child (spouse, coworker, etc.) that you believe in their ability to figure this out. You are there to support them and will sit right next to them while they work on it if they would like.
With this strategy, you are empowering them to feel good about their own abilities! What a gift you are giving them!
- Set Boundaries: I really feel like I should put an exclamation mark on this one. So many of us become the linchpins of our families. And many of us find ourselves in this role in our workplaces as well. On this surface, this sounds like a good thing because it means you are respected and valued. But, it can also be very stressful! When you are a linchpin without boundaries everyone constantly pulls on you. And, that’s exhausting!
When you are brave in setting boundaries with others you are not only protecting yourself from feeling overwhelmed and drained, you are empowering others to believe in their own abilities! Start with step 3: Supporting others to solve their own problems, instead of solving the problem for them is a type of boundary. Setting a boundary by putting out a “do not disturb” message while you are meditating is another type of boundary.
Setting boundaries will not take away from the value you provide to your family or the respect of your coworkers. You will actually find that it will bring about more respect because everyone else will see that you value yourself! When we value ourselves and our time, others will as well.
PRACTICE WITH GRACE
Whenever I am teaching people mindfulness and mindset techniques, I tell them that I have only one rule. As they go forward in implementing the techniques in their lives they must be willing to give themselves grace. Remember, when you are first trying something out you are actually practicing. Just like a dancer practices new steps or a musician practices new songs.
Communication strategies are no different. You will need to practice them and give yourself grace as you are learning.
Some of the techniques may come very naturally to you and they will be easy. Others may not come very naturally; they may require more practice. In either case, if you feel like you “failed” at a technique or that you are “just not good at it,” remember to be forgiving and graceful with yourself. All of us humans stumble and fumble.
Just try again and keep practicing! And keep loving yourself as you do!
With Love & Light,