After nearly four hours in the car, we arrived at our rental home, nestled in the trees just outside of Williamsburg, Virginia. The three of us—my niece, Ellei, my wife, Yvette, and I—were there to enjoy some time together and participate in the Patriot triathlon over the weekend. 

A few minutes after getting everything in the house and put away, I was ready to head out for a walk, and wondered who might join me. Stepping out of my bedroom, I saw Yvette with her computer all set up, headset on, and face buried in her computer. 

Shush, she motioned with her finger pressed up to her lips. She was already in a meeting. 

We’re on vacation, I thought, why is she on her computer? And why is she shushing me? 

Taking My Irritation On A Walk 

Annoyed, I headed out for a walk and contemplated how to make sure this never happens again. As you might imagine, I went through all ways I could put her in her place— 

So, you’re going to work while we’re on vacations from now on?

Was that meeting really that important?

I thought you wanted to have time away together? 

From Agitation To Curiosity 

Thankfully, my walk lasted long enough to move from agitation to curiosity. Yvette has never been a workaholic, and I had no reason to believe she was on her way to becoming one either. I wondered if there was some thought, or decision, that she made and forgot to communicate. 

A few hours later, with a smile on her face, she closed her computer. “I’m so glad I was in that meeting… I learned a lot, and I was able to help clear up some things for the team,” she said, as if her decision to start working was the plan all along. 

Given all the stress she had been experiencing with work projects, a part of me was happy for her. The other part was still irritated. “When did you decide that you would work on this vacation?” I asked, digging deep to remain curious about her experience. 

“I got an email with a bit of urgency that I wanted to address,” she said. As I was processing, she added, “Now that that’s out of the way, I will be able to extend our vacation a little.” 

Thank God I asked her to explain her choice, I thought. Her decision was better for all of us. She just didn’t communicate it, nor did I have a chance to participate in the decision, which left me feeling like my plans didn’t matter. 

In the end, she apologized. And, we discovered that the newness of working remotely was going to challenge our communication abilities. To help us navigate the gifts and challenges of work being so entangled in all areas of our lives now, we came up with five strategies to help us. Here they are— 

  1. Stay flexible. Just because things aren’t going exactly as we think they should go, doesn’t mean the results can’t be even better than we imagined.
  2. Be inclusive. Our decisions impact each other, whether we intend them to or not. It’s generous, and relationship-enhancing, to include each other in the decision-making process.
  3. Apologize for mistakes. There is no question that we will make mistakes as we continue having to adapt to the ever-changing situation that is this pandemic.
  4. Communicate your ideal. If we don’t know what each other would prefer, it’s difficult to create the best possible plan.
  5. Appreciate your partner. The constant uncertainty is hard enough for everyone. Take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the people who are going (growing) through this with you.

Before losing your bananas with your partner, see if you can lean into your curiosity, ask questions, stay open, share your experience, and come up with a plan to enhance communication around decisions. 

Here’s to your greatness,  

Misti Burmeister  

Misti Burmeister has been cultivating communication that results in trust and connection for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit https://www.MistiBurmeister.com