5 tips for effectively working with your partner
My husband, Janne, was out to dinner the other night with two friends he hadn't seen for a while. After catching up on life, kids work and other stuff, they realized that all three of them work with their spouses. And despite what most people would assume, they all agreed that this was actually a very positive experience!
When Janne came home that night he told me about their conversation and that he was so glad we are working together. It made my heart melt. Especially since the decision to work together was not an easy one for me.
This had me thinking a lot about my hesitation of getting into business with my husband and why. Funny enough, most of my reasons for not wanting to work with Janne, although valid, are the same reasons that I enjoy it today.
So I decided to take my list of "why not" reasons and turn them into 5 tips for effectively working with your partner.
1) Take time out (no space between work and play)
It is easy to become consumed with "work" even when you are not working together. So there is an even greater risk of not being able to shut off when you are working and living together. Therefore, it is important to make an effort to spend time with each other...alone...without cell phones or babies...and just be together.
I try to find ways to re-connect by asking myself a few questions. "What can we do together that would make me feel like we are dating all over again? How can we learn new things about each other?"
Additionally, it is important to take time for yourself! Yes this means go ahead and be selfish! Schedule that massage at your favorite spa or take that long hot bubble bath you have been dreaming of! And just be alone.
When you take time to rejuvenate your soul, you can show up as a better person to everyone else around you.
2) Count to 10 (he will drive me crazy)
I would be lying if I said I was the most patient person in the world. Like most over achievers and perfectionists with slightly OCD tendencies, it is easy to get caught up over the "little things." Like when he forgets to put the toilet seat down for the millionth time or when he uses my tooth brush in the shower instead of his own.
Well these "little things" can start to compound when you begin working together. You will notice everything and it will be easy to blow a fuse and respond with anger.
This is especially true after Janne and I had a baby and started working together. It is often difficult to remember what role is expected of me at any given moment. Am I am wife, a mother, a colleague, a coach or a friend?
What I have learned is that it is important to think about the situation you are in, and the role you are expected to play before you respond. In order to do this, I have found that counting to 10 gives me time to get my bearings and have a fresh perspective on the situation.
And if all else fails...I just remember who is the boss of both of us and all is good in the world again!
3) Focus on strengths (we are too different)
Anyone that knows me and my husband knows how different we are. Which is precisely what I was a worried about if we worked together. But I soon realized that these differences often create the perfect balance.
However, it is easy to get caught up on people's differences, especially those we care about the most. We begin focusing more on their weaknesses and end up getting frustrated.
This is when it becomes even more important to remember why you fell in love in the first place. What strengths exist that make your differences complementary? How can you use that in the workplace?
What helps our situation is that since we both bring different skills to the table, we have taken on different areas of responsibility. I find that this not only provides us the freedom to express who we truly are but it also enables us to admire what each other has to offer.
I respect Janne's creativity and his ability to always "wing it"! Sometimes I just need to remind myself of this (wink).
4) Communicate out of your comfort zone (he won't see things from my perspective)
Moving to Amsterdam and living in a new country was an eye opening experience for me. I was working in a location where I, the American woman, was a minority. Around me there were 32 different nationalities! This meant that I was exposed to a lot of cultural differences.
Beyond my professional situation, I was also starting a relationship with a Finnish man surrounded by mostly Dutch friends. This meant that many times I was not able to understand the conversation around the dinner table.
I had to learn to communicate in an entirely new way. Not just language wise, but with my mindset as well.
I was lucky to be introduced to a certified NLP coach and I decided to enroll in her eight week session. This was a fantastic decision. The course provided me with greater self-awareness, new insight, and simple tools for better communication.
The biggest lesson for me was to get out of my own head! In order to build trust and develop meaningful relationships it is key to really understand who is on the other side of the discussion.
Typically, we spend too much time communicating (listening, inquiring, and talking) from our own perspective. This can cause a lot of issues when communicating with someone whose mind is different from ours. How can you truly hear and understand what another person has to say when you are only focused on how you would say it?
But how do you get out of your own head? One technique we learned is known as "mirroring." This is where you pick up on signals and words people use when communicating so you can identify their preferred style of communication (analytical, audio, visual or kinaesthetic) and adjust yours to match theirs.
Try it! Next time you are talking to someone, shut off everything else in your head and really listen to what they are saying. What patterns of words do you hear?
- "I think it would be best!" "I am not sure that is accurate?" (analytical)
- "I see what you mean!" "I cannot seem to find the correlation?" (visual)
- "That feels a bit odd!" "I can't put my finger on it!" (kinaesthetic)
- "Sounds good!" "That rings a bell!" (audio)
Once you are aware of their preferred style, try matching your words to theirs. For example, Janne is an extremely visual communicator and I am more analytical. Therefore, in the beginning of our relationship I would often speak to him using logic. This would only result in frustration on both sides.
Now if I want to get the most out of our discussion, I use more visual descriptions and analogies. This has really made a difference in both our personal and professional relationship.
Of course, this is not always easy and requires a lot of practice (I am still working on it daily) but being aware is the first step and allowing yourself time to evolve is all part of the beautiful process.
5) Have fun (he doesn't take anything seriously)
Thanks goodness Janne is light, laid back and fun! And it's awesome that I am a planner, organizer and communicator. Isn't that what makes it so great?!
Without these nuances, life would be so boring. I may not always see this, but I am extremely grateful for a husband who is not only driven and passionate but he is also caring, playful, and romantic.
Life is too short - it is important to remember to laugh and just be in the moment. So if you are not a naturally silly or fun person, make sure you work with and love someone who is!
I hope these tips gave you some things to think about. In the end, it is about doing what makes you happy and surrounding yourself with people that inspire and love you for who you are.