In The Peaceful Home this month we have been focusing on calm communication. I chose communication as our first topic because communication is the foundation of everything we do as parents.
Calm, empathetic communication has the power to connect us not only to the children and adults who share our lives, but to treat ourselves more kindly too, connecting with our own needs and feelings. It is as much about a shift in thinking as a shift in language, allowing us to move to a place of compassion and empathy.
As well as discussing how to communicate peacefully with children, one of the things we have been digging into in the group is how to communicate our needs clearly and assertively with the adults we share our lives with. At the heart of calm communication with our partners is being able to clearly articulate to ourselves what we need to feel happy, healthy, and fulfilled – and to be able to communicate these needs in a way which invites cooperation and mutual support rather than resentment or frustration.
Here are some things to bear in mind when communicating your needs to your partner or another adult:
- Check in with how you are feeling, and what you might need in that moment. If you feel angry, you may need to be given space. If you’re upset, you may need to be cared for and comforted. If you’re nervous, you may need time to talk through your fears.
- Ask outright for what you need, and be specific. Often we think we have communicated a need but there is no clear action. eg. “Could you take the kids out for a couple of hours on Saturday so that I can have a bath?” is better than “You need to be more involved” or sitting in furious silence.
- Use “I” rather than “you” statements eg. “I’ve been feeling lonely in the evenings” or “I am feeling overwhelmed with the housework” rather than “You never want to spend time together” or “You don’t ever help around the house”. This is assertive without making your loved one feel attacked or defensive, and invites their empathy and understanding.
- Ask in a way that is likely to be well received. Consider your language. When feeling frustrated or tired it’s easy to jump straight to criticism, sarcasm, or blame.
- Pick a good time to talk. Ideally when children are not around and when neither of you are busy doing something else.
- Acknowledge your partner (or other adult)’s needs too, and find ways to ensure their needs are being met as well as your own. When the adults we share our lives with have a full cup, they can pour into ours; the more we support them to fulfil their needs, the more easily they will be able to support us in fulfilling our own needs.
- Ask your partner how they are feeling or what they want rather than just assuming.
- Offer to reciprocate and help your partner out too; kindness is not a limited resource and helping our loved ones makes us feel good too.
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