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How to Finally Stop Fighting About the Phone

How to Finally Stop Fighting About the Phone

Technology is intended to connect us. We text, FaceTime, ping, post, tweet, and snap in seconds to anyone, anywhere. It’s supposed to make us feel closer. However, these days, technology is eating away at personal, intimate relationships. It’s increasing distance and contributing to numerous misunderstandings between partners.

Someone is on their phone when their partner takes issue with it and the conflict quickly begins: “Why are you on that thing, again?” “I was only on it for two seconds, what’s your problem?” “I told you I was going to have to check my email for work, why are you getting on my case?” “Will you relax? It’s just a quick text message. God!”

You’re not really fighting about the phone.

It’s not about the phone. It’s about two issues the phone is coming to represent: control in the relationship and exiting from the relationship.

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1. Control

When someone’s fighting with you and defending their screen time, it’s typically not because they really, really want/need to be on the phone at that exact minute. What they really, really don’t want is to feel controlled. They are reacting to the idea that you are telling them what they can or cannot do in that moment. They’re fighting against the restriction and against the limit.

They are also fighting against and defending themselves from the stories that you are creating about their use of screen time: They are just tuned out. They’re lazy, they don’t care. They resent the implications made about their phone time and seek to defend it. This is usually because they typically pick up their phone mindlessly and out of habit. They have no ill intent when they pick it up to just check something really quick” and they resent the implication that it’s about anything else.

2. Exiting

When you’re with your partner and you’re having a fine time laughing, joking, or hanging out and they suddenly pick up their phone, it can be jarring. It can trigger a quick, knee jerk reaction that can surprise you with its intensity. Suddenly, something so small has a lot of power in your relationship.

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It can take your partner away from you. It can interrupt a nice, close moment. Your partner is right there with you one moment and then, POOF! They’re gone – even if they remain in the same room with you. In that moment, intended or not, it feels like your partner has abruptly exited the relationship. It’s as if they’ve left the house suddenly without saying good-bye.

That quick disconnect is so sudden that it’s jarring and suddenly you’re fighting about the pinging sound from something no more than 6 inches big only to hear What? It’s a commercial break. I was just checking my mail.” Your partner may have indeed only been checking their email in the commercial break of your favorite television show but it felt like an exit and you fought because of the disconnect you suddenly were experiencing.

What feels like control is actually about respect.

Here’s the thing. If you’re choosing to be in a committed relationship with someone, you simply do not get to do whatever it is you want at the exact moment you want to do it. Relationships don’t work that way. You’re going to be limited and restricted in what it is you want to do based on how the other person thinks or feels.

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It’s disrespectful and rude to just disconnect with your device whenever you want without checking in or touching base about it. If your partner has a problem with something you’re doing, you both have a problem until you can come to some kind of agreement.

Like it or not, you have to make an agreement.

Couples typically fight about anything they don’t have an agreement about beforehand. It’s just easier to navigate situations when you’re on the same page beforehand. That’s how you know how much you can spend, who’s doing what chore, etc. You find yourself fighting when there is no agreement or when the agreement is broken without word or warning.

Making an agreement about the phone and screen time is going to feel like you’re being controlled.

Get over it.

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At some point, it’ll be your partner who wants to just check something quick right when you’re starting to settle in and enjoy your time together and you’ll be glad to have an agreement.

  • What times do you already agree are unplugged?
  • Is there a time of day you can both agree to be unplugged? I like to recommend the last hour or two before a couple goes to bed as unplugged time.
  • Can you turn the sound off at times so you’re deciding together when one or both of you is going to check their gadgets but otherwise are uninterrupted?
  • With the exception of an alarm for waking up, can the bedroom be an unplugged zone?
  • Can mealtimes be unplugged?
  • What’s the rule when you’re in the car? If one of you is driving and the other person is on their phone, that can feel disjointed for some but no big deal for others. Where do you guys stand?
  • When you’re hanging out together, can you both agree to quickly check with the other person before you pick up the phone to text or get online? It won’t feel like an exit if you check before leaving.
  • What are the issues that have already come up for the two of you? If you’re consistently fighting about phone time during certain activities or times of day, check in and have an agreement.

Acknowledge when you’re asking for an exception.

A friend and I like to text one another when we’re watching a certain show. It’s a fun, memory making time for us but it’s also during the unplugged time my husband and I have agreed on. I don’t get to just turn on my phone and start texting her without checking in with him and saying something. We might have to struggle through the discussion a bit because he doesn’t get why it’s important to me but we’re less likely to fight and more apt to reach a compromise if we discuss it.

Take care of the relationship and everything else will follow.

No one wants to feel controlled. No one wants to be accused of exiting from the relationship just because they’ve picked up their phone but those feelings are real and they need to be attended to. Come together and make an agreement that feels right for both of you. It won’t be iron tight but it’s a start. Take care of your relationship and it’ll take care of you.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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