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Top tips for effective communication from family lawyer Billy Ko of Withers

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Communication is key to preventing and resolving conflicts. As a longtime lawyer specialising in family law, this is something I always tell my clients. And, as a new father to a baby boy, this is something I also practice at home to help strengthen the bonds of trust and partnership between my wife and I.

However, COVID-19 has completely upturned how we communicate both at work and at home, causing me to rethink my own communication best practices. Due to the pandemic, people have been confined to their homes, working remotely, and living in much closer quarters with family members 24/7. With so many high-tension factors in place, an uptick in family quarrels has been inevitable.

But in the last few months, I’ve learnt some important lessons on how to improve my communication skills at home and at work to prevent and resolve these types of quarrels. 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, and I sincerely hope that my findings will be useful for you as well.

Be patient and considerate; everyone is going through a challenging time. It’s easy to get frustrated with family members when you are all confined at home. Small issues, like leaving out a dirty mug, are suddenly amplified when we spend significantly more time with each other.

However, it is important to keep calm and not let petty grievances  cause disproportionately large arguments. Everyone in the household is unsettled and on edge so instead of jumping hotheadedly into an argument, take a breath, be patient and empathise.

Communicate with your partner ahead of time instead of expecting her to anticipate your needs. Neither you nor your spouse are mind readers, so you need to talk things through – don’t assume you can second-guess each other.

I encourage you to let your spouse know in advance about aspects of your schedule where you would appreciate her special consideration. For example, you might have a conference call for which you need privacy and quiet. Or perhaps your spouse has an important upcoming deadline, and would appreciate you taking on more childcare responsibilities to help ease her workload. Again, communication is key in preventing any potential arguments.

Prioritise the small gestures that show your loved ones you care. As an advocate for mental health and wellness, I understand that the many additional stress points this year has challenged us with can cause increased anxiety and depression. That’s why it is so important to take a few minutes out of your day to give the people in your life positive affirmations. Be sure to ask family members how they are feeling, and then actively listen to their response. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can understand what they are struggling with, and be there to help.

With work colleagues, you could send a quick email thanking them for their hard work. In the age of working remotely, it is easy for office staff to feel underappreciated, so
reaffirming their contribution to the team, especially when you may not have seen them face-to-face for an extended period of time, is invaluable.

Withers, 30/F United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty, 3711 1600, www.withersworldwide.com/en-gb/hong-kong
A Partner at international law firm Withers, Billy Ko advises on all aspects of family law. Find more from Billy at www.withersworldwide.com/en-gb/people/billy-ko.

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