Everyone has experienced the anguish of realizing, midway through an argument, that much of the conflict could have been prevented with some simple, good old fashioned, preventative communication. In times of stress, plans are dashed together, agreements hastily arrived at, and granular details left along the wayside.
Dealing with the anxieties and turbulence of COVID-19 has left many families scrambling to reorganize their house and family, their day-to-day lives, and the education of their children in very short order with no blueprints or personal experience to support their efforts. Families are, in essence, “making it up as they go along.”
If you have joined a Pandemic Pod with other families, you may have already experienced disagreements about curriculum, pod safety, behavior, illness, or general expectations. Or, you may still be on the fence about whether this is a good option if you have concerns about the legal and liability issues.
Here are 5 Tips for Successful Communication in Pandemic Pods
1. Use open-ended questions:
When you sit down with other families to discuss your Pod Planning, you will all have many questions for each other. It can be helpful to as “open ended” questions (rather than simple “yes/no” questions), such as:
- What is the objective here?
- What is your sense of…
- What about this issue do you want people to really understand?
- What do you need in order to…
2. Active Listening:
The idea here is to be receptive to both verbal and non-verbal messages being provided. This can include using some of the other techniques discussed, and it is focused on each person involved putting in the energy and effort to listen and truly hear what is being said.
Key parts of this are:
- Remembering what is said
- Providing positive reinforcement
- Asking relevant questions.
3. Tactical Empathy
This can also be a very effective way of encouraging a collaborative discussion. When someone is expressing a difficult emotion or concern and you are able to reflect back to them some of what they are expressing, you are using reflective listening skills.
One very easy way to do this is by saying:
“it sounds like you are really concerned with X” or
“it feels like X is important to you” or
“so what you’re saying is…”
This can create trust and signal respect and concern for what the other person is saying. If you can all employ some basic mirroring techniques, you’ll have better luck digging into, and understanding, the issues that are important to you individually, and as a Pod. In its most basic form, “mirroring is the behavior in which one person imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another.
Research consistently demonstrates the power or mirroring. It works because everyone wants to know that they are safe, understood, and in control – especially when you are talking about something as important as your children. You really want to take out all opportunities for people to feel defensive, and if you can get them
You want people to talk openly so that you can discern what they really want/need. Agreement happens most easily when there is true understanding and everyone has a sense of control.
5. Address the problem, not the person:
Be objective about the actual problem and try to detach any negative emotions about the person who is presenting it. Try to see the issue from their point of view, ask or repeat what they are telling you. Don’t use hostile words, don’t interrupt, and show respect. Remember that if you label their feelings (“It looks like you’re really upset about this.”), you’ll have a better chance at getting to the meat of the problem, rather than just inflaming sore emotions.
Making sure everyone is on the same page with Pandemic Pod issues will help mitigate some confusion down the road. No one knows what the rest of the academic year is going to look like, but one thing is for sure: moving your family through uncharted territory is easier with clear communication, contingency plans, and a road map.
If you find this helpful, check out our series of Pandemic Pod Agreement Templates and Guides. With Hanning Law Limited, we’ve created these downloadable documents to help families and educators formalize their understandings in an easy to use format.
Liz Merrill is a Fort Collins-based mother and mediator and has a personal and professional passion for helping families navigate conflict and find empowering resolutions.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.