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Same storm, different boat

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Same storm, different boat

Gaining a better understanding of our relationships during the pandemic

Many of us continue to live and work very differently compared with a year ago. We may have become used to this ‘new normal’ but that doesn’t mean we are happy about it. It can take a while to adjust and settle to sudden change.

I like the saying: “while we all in the same storm we are not in the same boat”. Our experiences and the consequences of navigating these unchartered waters are unique because we are all different. Some of us may have found some silver linings, some positive, and perhaps unexpected, outcomes from having to adjust. Some of us may still be feeling challenged or overwhelmed. Many of us ebb and flow with mixed emotions, depending on the day.

Are we in this together?
Many people in my network have spoken about the affect the pandemic has had on their relationships, at work and at home. Some have said that the frequency and quality of their connections have changed for the better. They have become creative about how to communicate and stay in touch, given the physical distance. Conversations have been more meaningful and support has been mutual.

Others have said they have felt more irritated and resentful. The differences in habits and needs, that perhaps they never felt to be such a big deal, have become more noticeable or harder to accept. Expectations have changed; tensions have arisen, and contact has reduced.

What changes have you experienced with your relationships? Have there been any new challenges?

Assumptions can steer us
Communication is usually the issue, not character or personality. We all have different needs, perspectives and preferred ways of doing things. Problems can arise when we assume that others think, feel and act like us. Assumptions steer our actions and influence how we feel. They can free our creativity, make us feel more hopeful, help us problem solve, give us energy, motivation and direction and help us embrace challenges.

However, they can also keep us stuck, stall our recovery from change and uncertainty, limit our capacity to understand and learn, reduce our tolerance for differences or create tension in relationships.

Expectations are the same. We expect others to behave in a way that is reasonable. That is, what seems reasonable ‘to us’, based on our sense of how the world ‘should be’. When we live our lives according to different values, the expectations we hold of ourselves and others are likely to be different. It’s not helpful to expect that everyone will think, feel and respond in the same way we do, even when faced with the same set of circumstances and challenges. Ultimately, a fixed mindset leads to disappointment.

What assumptions might you be making that are diminishing your relationships? If you knew that you are in control of setting your expectations, what might change for you?

Mindset matters
Recognize what you can control and influence and what you cannot. Sometimes, it also helps to remember to ‘pick your battles’, to decide what deserves your energy and attention. The only person you can control is yourself. You can’t make someone think, feel, or do, anything different.

Here are a few things you can do:

• Ask for what you need and would like, rather than complain, criticize, blame or suffer ‘in silence’.
• Communicate, concisely and clearly, your boundaries and maybe even your ‘line in the sand’ (what you think is unacceptable or you won’t do).
• Commit to listen without interrupting, to understand another person’s needs, wants and point of view. You don’t have to agree. You are much more likely to be listened to if you listen well.
• If it’s important, see if there’s a way to negotiate boundaries to ease any tension and create more connection.
• Adopt a flexible mindset to embrace challenges and adapt to changing circumstances.

Relationships require work. It’s often worth the investment of time, energy and skills, to learn to deal with the differences to ease the effects of the storm.

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