What’s wrong? Those two words for starters (sometimes the question ‘What’s wrong?’ is quite appropriate, but often that question can put a negative slant on communication and simply mean… ‘tell me what’s wrong so I can tell you how to fix it’
Your partner & your children have big lives… layers of stuff going on… hopes dreams, uncertainty, challenges… and sometimes they may not know exactly what is wrong, maybe it is better to simply ask: How are you? How are you feeling? What’s going on for you? Get the difference?
So it is in the asking where magic happens, let me clarify. If you ask a question while you are checking your phone, playing on FB or watching the television, well you are not really present are you? But if you ask the question demonstrating open body language, good eye contact and in a tone that invites trust (emotional safety) and says; I am interested and I have lots of time to listen (devices off) then what are you are communicating to that person is:
Hey, you are very important to me, I really care about you
I respect you so much that I’m not gonna try and fix it or intervene unless you really want me to because you are capable and resourceful.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that kind of attention you know that it is the best feeling. This is love at work… love is a doing word… sure you tell your family you love them but the magic is when you show them with the most valuable gift in the world. Your time, no strings attached. Listening, validating. Pure magic.