Sharing my experience
The following are examples of the types of small misunderstandings that can grow into big problems when there is a lack of effective communication.
More than just dishpan hands
Every night, after dinner, Annie does the dishes. When she was first diagnosed with psoriasis, her hands and nails were free from patches and pitting, but now it’s getting worse. The dishes are piling up in the sink, and her husband, who is not used to doing this chore, is getting annoyed. He reminds her to take care of the dishes, but Annie just ignores him. She’s angry that he doesn’t understand that it’s irritating and painful to wash the pots and that she’s afraid she’ll make her symptoms worse if she does.
Reading into the situation
After a series of tough days at work, Richard decides to take a half hour a night to read a book, following his doctor’s suggestion to take more time to rest. He has set aside a specific time and place for reading. Richard has asked his family to respect this quiet time, but his teenage son always interrupts him with personal requests, even when Richard closes the door to his quiet room.
Seven rules for better communication
Both Annie and Richard need to find ways to talk about how psoriasis is affecting their lives so that their family members can understand and try to be more helpful. The following rules would probably help them, or anyone for that matter in any situation, to better communicate:
1. Set clear goals.
- Get ready for your conversation by figuring out how you feel, what you need, and how you can express these as your goals.
2. Schedule a conversation.
- Avoid blurting things out in the heat of the moment. Everyone will be more calm and reasonable when feelings of stress or anger aren’t getting in the way.
3. Define the problem.
- Be as specific as you can when you describe the issue.
4. Let them know how you feel.
- Make the conversation more personal by speaking in the first person. Use the word “I” to be clear, saying things like “I’m hurt that you never thought about how my hands might be bothering me” or “I feel like you don’t think about my needs”. Avoid being vague or hurtful by talking about them with “you” statements, such as “You’re so selfish” or “You’re inconsiderate”.
5. Be clear about your needs.
- Asking for support means pointing out your specific needs. Annie might say, “I need you to help with the dishes, because the skin on my hands hurts.” Richard might try saying, “I just need a little time each day to rest because paying attention to my body will help me to stay healthy.”
6. Listen carefully.
- Annie’s husband was surprised to learn that her psoriasis was irritated by soap and water. He was also angry that she had taken so long to say anything, but also admitted that he didn’t want to do the dishes.
- Richard’s son didn’t realize that his father needed rest so badly.
- Listening carefully will allow all parties to take more positive steps in the conversation.
7. Be prepared to negotiate a solution.
- Annie and her husband agreed to invest in a dishwasher, and he committed to rinsing the dishes and loading them. Annie promised to tell her husband when household chores were becoming too challenging and to look for solutions with him to avoid hurt feelings.
- Richard decided to help his son to increase his understanding of psoriasis by doing a little Internet research with him. By discovering the real impact of the disease, his son was better able to consider his father’s needs and agreed not to interrupt his quiet time. For his part, Richard realized he needed to set aside time to spend with his son after recharging during quiet time.
Communicating effectively takes time and practice, but the rewards are well worth it!