When you travel with a partner, effective communication may save your life. Or at least your relationship.
But how do you do it?
Effective Communication Is Key
Recently, I was chatting with a woman who had held high-powered jobs in the U.S. government. She said, “Communication is key. I don’t think I’ve attended a single meeting in my entire career where someone didn’t say that.”
Despite hearing the same message throughout her professional life, she was struggling to communicate with her partner.
I started thinking—what do people mean when they talk about effective communication?
As I started doing research, I found tons of articles about how one needs to speak to get their message across.
But what if the key to effective communication has less to do with the speaker and more to do with the listener? How much more effective would our communication be if we spent at least as much time thinking about how our partner needs to receive communications than about how we deliver it?
3 T’s of Effective Communication
If I had thought about it, I would have told you my husband and I communicated pretty well. That is if I had thought about it before we moved onto Meander.
But the challenges we faced on board, the mismatch of our expectations, and the anxiety of doing something new showed us the flaws in our communication. Over time, we’ve both gotten better.
We would have done better, sooner, if we had spent more time thinking about how the other person heard things and less time thinking about what we wanted to communicate.
In short, we would have done better to always remember the 3 T’s of communicating effectively so our partner can hear the message.
My husband is on the helm. I say to him, “You might want to keep an eye on that container ship on your port side.”
His reply? “I knooooooow,” just dripping with “I-see-it-you-don’t-have-to-tell-me” attitude.
Let’s just say it doesn’t make me feel charitably inclined toward him. Which leads to a marked deterioration in my tone.
What helps to keep the tone neutral? Treating each other like crew—professionally.
I find it easy to let my frustration show in my voice. But if I can switch gears from irritated mate to crew member, my husband is better able to hear my message.
How does a crew member reply to someone directing their attention to a nearby hazard?
By replying, “thank you.” Or “heard.”
Crew would never reply to their captain with snark. And couples who crew together shouldn’t either.
When is the best time to communicate? The time when the communication is most likely to be heard.
Bickering after you sideswipe a tree with your rig because of unclear instructions? That’s not communication. The timing is wrong.
In an emergency, or even just a tense moment, the most effective communication is only what you need to resolve the issue.
Save the actual communication about what went wrong (and right) for a quiet moment later. Believe me, both you and your partner will be better able to hear the communication in a calm moment.
How does your partner need to receive information?
As an extrovert who processes decisions by talking about them, I don’t respond well to hearing “sure” when we need to make a difficult choice.
“Should we take up the anchor and move to a less crowded anchorage even though we’ll struggle to find deep enough water to get in?” “Sure.”
To me, that’s not helpful. It takes time to make the right decision. And if my introvert husband doesn’t process his decision-making in a way I understand, it’s not effective communication.
My husband needs concrete instructions. If I’m the least bit vague, he’ll find a dozen different ways to hear what I say.
To communicate effectively with him, I need to be very concrete.
Slow down a bit is worthless communication. Shift into reverse for three seconds is concrete.
Think carefully about how your partner receives information. Then develop the right technique to communicate with them effectively.
Rewards Of Effective Communication
What is the greatest reward of effective communication? You avoid the fourth “T”—trauma.
Poor communication can poison all the best parts of the nomad life.
If you’re sulking from a rough day on the road, you can’t appreciate the warm spring breeze when you stop. Anger at being disrespected during a rough anchoring can keep you from noticing the dolphin mama and baby swimming off your bow.
Even more importantly, effective communication is the key for keeping you safe.
Don’t wait until you’re crossing a narrow bridge in high winds or docking in a crowded marina to practice your communication skills. You’ll communicate far more effectively if you practice your skills before you need them the most.