Effective communication means being able to communicate clearly and graciously, asking for what you want and saying “No” to things you don’t want.
Like other parents of new babies, you may find it difficult to communicate effectively because you are especially tired, and your energy is focused on managing all you must do. Being able to express your thoughts and feelings openly to others can help you get the support you need.
Dads of new babies may find themselves in situations in which they find it difficult to express their true feelings or dislikes. There may be many reasons why you don’t say what you feel at the time when in these situations. For example:
- Difficulty knowing and expressing your feelings
- Confusion about what you really want
- Fear of alienating those around you
- Not wanting to cause conflict
- Concern for those around you
Things that may hinder communication
There are a number of barriers that can make it difficult for you to communicate well.
Be careful that your body language doesn’t in any way confuse or contradict what you say with words.
Communication is both verbal and visual. It’s not just what you say (your verbal content), but also how you say it (your non-verbal body language: tone of voice, amount of eye contact, hand gestures).
Not the right time to talk
Choose the right time to discuss issues or concerns. You will be more likely to communicate clearly and respectfully when you are relatively relaxed with few distractions.
Doing too much at one time
Try to avoid covering too much territory in any single conversation. Long, complex statements can be difficult to listen to and the more you cover the harder it can be to react carefully to everything and even to remember it. Take “baby steps” when it comes to communicating clearly.
Fatigue or stress
When you are tired, anxious or stressed you may slip into more passive ways of interacting with others. The ‘Managing Your Stress’ Library article provides suggestions to help you better manage stress and anxiety.
Deciding not to talk
If you and your partner are fatigued or stressed, then either of you may react badly to any attempt to share feelings and negotiate home and baby tasks. Of course, it may be difficult to find a time that is totally free of stress but try to pick your times carefully in order to improve chances that the discussion with your partner will go well.
The good news is that communicating clearly becomes easier with practise. And shared, open communication becomes easier for both you and your partner when it leads to positive understandings, good feelings, and a shared sense of being able to solve problems together.
Think about the following situations that may involve friends, family or your partner:
- You may receive a lot of unsolicited advice. Nearly everyone has an opinion about what’s best for your baby. It seems like everyone is all too willing to give you advice about how you should be doing things or worse, how you should be feeling.
- Other people may want you to care for them in addition to caring for your baby. While caring for others can increase the warmth and closeness of your relationships, it can also add to your stress because it increases the demands on your time, your energy, and your caring resources.
- You may have a different parenting style than your partner and this can lead to conflict in the household about what should or should not be done. Discussing this can help to sort out a compromise.
- You may feel that nobody understands or cares about what you are experiencing as a father. Holding your feelings inside (not speaking up for yourself) may eventually lead you to feel angry, depressed and/or anxious.
Here is a strategy that others have used to improve their communication:
The “sandwich” strategy is an approach for effective communication.
Step 1: Begin with a compliment and show empathy (understanding of the other person’s situation, needs, and feelings).
Step 2: Clearly and graciously state your needs.
Step 3: Express your appreciation.
Using the sandwich approach may seem artificial and fake. Indeed, this approach will not be helpful if it doesn’t seem genuine and heartfelt. So, it is important to examine your thoughts and write them down honestly so that your words will sound like – and actually be – what you really feel.
Social skillfulness is the ability to interact with other people in such a way that the experience is a positive one for both.
Remember, relationships are built on emphasising the positives (e.g., “I appreciate your help”) while clearly communicating what you would like.
“Sandwich”: Example scenario
Here is an example scenario and some possible clear responses.
We hope you enjoyed this article. It is one of the many support articles in the DadBooster online program. For more great tips and strategies, give DadBooster a go.