1. Respect and acknowledge other people’s points of view
    • Agree to disagree e.g. “We seem to be going around in circles, I see your point, and though it is not necessarily my point of view, I am willing to let this go so we can move on. Furthermore, I harbour no ill will towards you. I respect you still, the same way I know you respect me too. It is well”.
    • Compromise where you can e.g. “I see how it’s important to you, I don’t necessarily believe in it, but I will do it for you, because I value our relationship more than what I think”.
    • Always give people two choices e.g. “Would you like pasta or pap for dinner?” Do not impose without consultation. Do not use definitive language. Use tentative language, e.g. “Perhaps we could try”, or “What if we did.” As opposed to “We must” or “We should”.
  2. For every criticism, have a corresponding compliment
    • Use the sandwich method that is, say what is right first before you say what is wrong and then suggest what needs to be done e.g. “Thank you so much for a well cooked dinner, it was tasty and different. Do you mind in future, adding a little less salt? Otherwise, I enjoyed it”. Tell it the way you would like to hear it.
    • Get into a habit of complimenting each other even when there are no problems e.g. “Today I have nothing much to say except thank you! I see your efforts, I appreciate your company, well done, keep it up!”
  3. Have regular status update meetings to touch base with each other. This is to manage assumptions and resolve the many issues that arise during the week, big or small in an interactive environment where everyone has a say and their opinion is valued and taken into consideration. Get comfortable about talking to each other. Use conversation prompts like: “I think”, “I suggest”, “I’d like to report”, “I have a question”, “I’m concerned about”, “I’m really happy about”, “I’m thankful for” etc. Avoid saying “You…”, rather use, “I feel…”
  4. Remember communication is not only a two-way street but it is more listening than talking. Give your full attention and do not interrupt. People want to be heard and understood, more than they want solutions or advice. Be empathetic and listen, even if it is the only way you know how to be there for them, they will appreciate the support. Pause and breathe before you respond, repeat back to them what you think they are saying e.g. “If I understand you correctly, you are saying you feel disrespected?”.
  5. Timing is key in communication. If not ready, reschedule another time to continue the conversation when you are calm or more informed about the subject matter. Avoid having conversations in bed, during dinner, while intoxicated, while having visitors or upset.
  6. Regularly spend time away from each other to recharge mentally, rest physically and for emotional recuperation. People refuel differently. Too much of anything is bad for health including contact and companionship. Do not try to change each other at the core, find ways of co-existing with your differences. Be open and honest about what matters to you and what is non-negotiable.
  7. Understand that no one is perfect including yourself. We are all works in progress. Accommodate other people’s faults the same way you need the same courtesy from others. When you take off the pressure of perfection from others, you give yourself a break from perfection too.
  8. Commit to personal development knowing that there are areas in yourself that require work or polishing up to contribute to harmony in the relationship. Be honest about your own shortcomings and think about how they may have adversely affected others. It takes two to tango, the best relationships are transparent, complimentary, interdependent partnerships where we give as much as we get, and where we feel nourished.
  9. Have a balance between mercy and tough love e.g. “I made samp today. I know it’s not your favourite but tomorrow you can order whatever you want from uber eats!”.
  10. Observe relationship protocol, this includes respecting each other e.g. using positive language as opposed to insults, self-respect and self-care around others e.g. keeping your surroundings neat and clean, respect of authority e.g. respecting elders, respecting privacy e.g. knocking before entering someone else’s room. It also helps to have practical solutions such as duty roasters, set weekly dinner menus, financial strategies, or to take turns with errands etc. to avoid cases where one person feels overwhelmed and each member of the family contributes equally to the household upkeep.

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