We all know that communication is one of the secrets to happy and healthy relationship. Poor communication can lead to conflict, resentment and hurt – not things you deliberately seek in a relationship!
Communicating with your spouse (even when sleep deprived) is a challenge that rears its head especially once children are introduced and the family dynamic is changed. The combination of sleep deprivation, busier schedules and the ‘high stakes’ associated with parenting can be a recipe for conflict.
Understanding how to navigate communication with your partner can help avoid conflict, especially when you’re struggling with little sleep and dealing with all the fun changes with a newborn baby or cranky toddler!
When we’re tired, it’s so much harder to be rational, reasonable, patient and calm. Have you noticed how an overtired child is more likely to have a tantrum, be especially challenging or refuse to listen? Unfortunately, as adults we can still suffer from these traits when feeling tired.
So how can we effectively communicate with your partners (even when sleep deprived)?
1. Identify your communication style
One of my favorite tools to identify your communication style is Crystal Knows. Crystal Knows is a website that provides personality assessments and helps people learn to communicate better. After completing their assessment, you will understand more about your personality type, and your communication style.
I recommend that you ask your partner to also complete the assessment, and share your results (’cause you’re definitely in this parenting thing together).
The best feature of Crystal Knows is their relationship reports. Using this tool provides you with a report with analysis and suggestions on;
- Communicating effectively with each other
- Working on a project
- Resolving Conflict
- Building a strong, lasting relationship
- Managing change
- Giving feedback
- Giving instructions
- Encouraging and motivating
- Managing a stressful situation
Use this report to identify red flags, or communication barriers in your relationship and think about strategies to help avoid conflict.
Effectively communicating with your partner can help avoid conflict, especially when you’re struggling with little sleep and dealing with all the fun changes with a newborn baby or cranky toddler.
2. Timing is Key
If a challenging, long, or in-depth needs to happen, think carefully about the timing of this conversation.
After a long day of juggling children’s sleep schedules, home and work, we might not feel like having a stressful conversation. Find a time where you and your spouse are most alert and able to focus on the conversation at hand. Possibly the time that you are cleaning the kitchen or when you are finally relaxing in bed watching Netflix.
3. Minimize Distractions
One of the challenges of being a parent is being able to focus on a conversation, especially when your children are demanding your attention.
Try set aside some ‘adult time’ after the kids have gone to bed, or while they’re napping to have distraction-free conversations. This will help avoid conflict if one person feels they aren’t being heard.
4. Be Mindful
One of the keys to good communication is being empathetic, or mindful of the other person. When negotiating, or asking for something, think about why you need help for what you are asking.
For example, “I feel overwhelmed and tired after a long day with the kids, and therefore I would really like some more help with the bedtime routine.” Think of the alternative (what you may be doing now). “Ugh…. can’t you just take the kids for bedtime, I’ve been with them all day long.”
I promise you the first way will go over way better to get your partner on board.
Being mindful of how questions or statement are framed can also help avoid conflict. For example, “do you need help preparing dinner?” sounds much nicer than “why is dinner late?”.
5. Take a Break
Forcing a conversation when neither partner is in the mood or has the energy, is more likely to lead to conflict. I know you know that because chances are you’ve tried to chat when you were tired or hungry and the conversation ended up in a huge blow-up fight.
Sometimes sleep needs to be a priority (especially if it makes you in a better mood).
The conversation can be easy, for example you can say: “I want to have this discussion with you, but I’m so tired that I can’t think straight. Can we talk about this tomorrow once we’re both more rested?” Don’t go to sleep angry, but don’t cause a fight right before bed either.
How did the last conversation with your spouse go when you were too tired? What communication style worked best for you?
Lucy Cantley is a soon-to-be first-time mother, MBA graduate, and entrepreneur. She runs MBA to Motherhood, a resource to help new and expectant mothers become the CEO of their home and growing family. Her motto? “Informed. Prepared. Empowered”.