As a long-time reader of self-improvement and productivity blog posts one thing I’ve noticed is that most of them focus on moms or singles. Now, moms do handle a lot of logistics so they make great consumers. But isn’t it time that adults sharing work and living spaces with other adults got some attention?
Couples, roommates, polycule, coworkers sharing desk or office space, and other instances where adults routinely share space and have to get things done could use a more tailored approach. How do you negotiate cohabitation, cooperation, and collaboration around everyone’s unique productivity needs?
Conflict arises when one person’s attempt to fulfil their needs prevents another person from doing the same thing. This is, historians tell us, the cause of most wars. But you have a day job and a side hustle, a social life and family responsibilities. You don’t have time for war, so let’s hash out a strategy for peaceful and productive co-existence.
Is This Actually a Problem?
Am I just groping around in the dark for a topic so I can get my name in the productivity game/ No. First of all, I’m a therapist and blindfluencer. While this isn’t my niche, your regular host has very graciously lent me this platform to share a thought on a different topic. Like most people, I think about more than just my top 3 interests on a regular basis.
Secondly, yes, this is actually a problem. Let me paint you a picture.
You get stressed by clutter, your desk-mate’s paperwork has the fluidic property of expanding to fill all available space.
You run hot, your roommate runs cold.
Your workday starts an hour before your partner’s, and now that you’re working from home his coffee routine clatters in the background of your morning meeting.
You wear headphones to help you concentrate but your partner is triggered by the perception of you ignoring them
These are not new problems. Cohabiting, co-operating has always caused friction between unique styles of creativity, stress management, and organizational preferences. And I am probably not the first, or most qualified, person to talk about these problems.
But you’re on this blog, I have your attention, so I’m going to make good use of it and share my take on how to overcome these and other challenges.
Trust leads to learning:
The solution seems simple, but it is not easy. I can, however, promise you great rewards if you’ll stick at it. Learn to trust others, and they will teach you what you’re capable of.
Did you think I was going to give you conflict resolution skills or a list of tricks for marking out your territory in a non-threatening way? Remember, I’m a therapist; it’s all about relationships, facing fears, and personal growth with me. I want you to harness the power of trust.
Trust: surrendering some of your power to someone else and believing they won’t hurt or disappoint you in response.
Trust doesn’t happen without the presence of fear. The basic fear is “if I give someone else power, then I will have less for myself.” This comes from the theory that social power is a finite resource. I reject this concept on the premise that social power isn’t a physical resource and humans are capable of generating it at will. You can afford to give people trust.
Now, let me make a disclaimer here; this does NOT apply to people who have genuine reason to believe that acts of trust will be used against them. Those of you who have been socially, emotionally, or physically abused…this is not for you. You do not need to make yourself vulnerable over the internal temperature of your shared WFH setup.
But for the rest of you readers, here’s where I’m going with this.
Try listening to your co-habitor’s explanation for why they do those things that impede your productivity the most. Pick one thing, ask them to just lay out all the reasons it works for them. Surrender your power of speech to them, trust them to explain calmly without trying to prove that your way is wrong. Just listen.
Then, DON’T share your side. You can do that later. You’ll always feel the impulse to return the explanation favor, so let’s try something different. Instead of taking your turn, try applying their reasoning to yourself. Let me give you an example.
I am someone who appreciates efficient communication. I use few words, and I appreciate it when someone gets what I’m trying to say before I finish so we can dive deeper, go bigger, get to better things.
My husband is what’s known as a “circumstantial communicator.” He will tell you all the related circumstances about a particular event before actually telling you what the event is. And he HATES being interrupted. To him, it’s the most rude thing a person can do.
We’ve obviously had some conflict over this.
I’m in a hurry, I need a piece of information, I don’t have time for that piece of information’s entire life story.
He feels disrespected and personally put down when I cut him off and ask him to zero in on the details.
We negotiated this a lot in our early marriage, but it became more of an issue during covid when we spent SO much more time together both working from home. While he’d gotten to the point where he could set aside his knee-jerk reaction when I told him I was in a hurry, my tendency to want to ‘get to the good stuff” still really, really bothered him.
I’d gotten tired of trying to explain why I liked doing things my way. I started listening to why he felt his method was so important. And in doing so I learned a lot about his emotional needs – and mine.
What I learned about my husband was that he rarely felt appreciated for the effort he put in getting answers for people. He felt people didn’t value his time when they asked for favors then rushed him to get their results. I learned that, to him, listening fully was a form of gratitude and affirmation.
It wasn’t about the listening; it was about his time and energy invested in you, and that being returned.
I learned some things about myself, too.
I learned that slowing down to listen actually seemed to give me more time than rushing through everything. I learned that my preference for quick answers was just a preference, and that the pressure I felt behind that preference came from a fear of being inadequate. I had to do as much as I could as quickly as I could all the time, or I’d let someone down.
But without that fear, my desire for more concise communication became less of a need and more a matter of taste. And taste is easier to set aside in order to love someone who grew up feeling rejected all his life.
I also learned that I had the power to slow down my thoughts. Without ideas racing around behind my eyes it was much easier to listen. I learned mindfulness by learning to love my husband through listening.
I find it easier to listen to clients than to my husband. I mean, I blocked out an hour to listen to each of them, but I only set aside 30 seconds to make dinner plans and he wants to talk about it for 10 minutes. But the growth I employ when learning to love my husband better will ultimately benefit me, him, us, and all my future clients.
By surrendering my time once to listen to why I should listen longer I learned deep truths about my insecurities, my husband’s past pain, and a valuable professional skill.
Take a risk. Give up your time, listen to someone you work with, live with. It’s your time to give, after all. Listening means learning. Trust creates peace.
What did you think about this post? Leave your thoughts below!
Make sure to check out Anneliese’s blog here!