Five Easy Communication Hacks for Law Enforcement Relationships

It’s incredibly important that we set up communication rituals to make sure we not only have regular and effective communication, but expectations.

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We all know communication is really important in relationships, but its not just about the communication. It’s also about the connection. Communication is hard when you barely see your spouse due to shift work, sleep schedules etc. It’s incredibly important that we set up communication rituals to make sure we not only have regular and effective communication, but expectations.

What are communication rituals?

Rituals are something that have a prescribed set of behaviors and because of that, they provide comfort. They are “easy on the brain”.  The brain likes easy!  Law enforcement couples benefit from developing several types of communication rituals.

Communication rituals for Law Enforcement Couples

#1 Logistics: Couples always need to communicate logistical information such as upcoming events, dates on the calendar, what kid needs to be where, and if the dog popped lately.  All this information has to be communicated for couples to be on the same page. Logistics are all about the things that we do in daily life to make daily life work. Discuss with your spouse the best way to communicate and when to communicate this information.  It is probably not during hypervigilance recovery. I suggest that logistics be done in writing because if you are on the downside of hypervigilance, your brain will not be functioning properly, and you have a higher chance of forgetting information. This could also apply if you are coming home from a stressful day or the kids have worn you down.  Leave notes on the counter, make a list in a common area or send texts. Texting is a good communication tool but be cautious because sometimes they get lost or misinterpreted.

#2 Hypervigilance Communication: While you can get through a 20-minute Decompressing Conversation with your spouse (more on this later), more in depth conversation and decision making does not need to happen when an officer is recovering from hypervigilance.  The goal here is to communicate the need to chat about something in the future and establish a time to do so.  We will look at a potential ritual for this in a minute.

The 5 steps for Hypervigilance Communications

 1. Let your spouse know you need to set up a time to chat.

 2. Communicate the topic of the conversation including the reason for the conversation, and the potential results.

 3. Communicate the urgency of the conversation and deadline if there is one.

 4. Share if this is a problem-solving or a story sharing conversation.

 5. Set up a time within the next week that works for both of you to have the conversation.

 How this looks

 1. “I need to set up a time to talk to you for about 30 minutes.”

 2. “I have a work situation going on. I want to share the details of what is going on and hope to get some emotional support.”

 3. “It’s not super critical, but sometime in the next 10 days would be great.”

 4. “I just want to share the story. It’s nothing you need to fix.”

 5. “I know we both have sometime Wednesday night. Would 5:30 work for you?”

#3 Love Map Ritual: Dr. John Gottman defines “Love Maps” as how well we know each other’s world.  It is imperative that we keep up with each other’s love maps.  Think of it like a GPS system that needs to be constantly updated with what is on the road ahead or what was on the road during the day.  A love map ritual is a brief communication takes 20 minutes.  Spend talking about the experiences that both of you had since the last time you saw each other.  Take just 10 minutes each to speak and provide feedback to each other.  Gottman calls this a 20-minute Decompressing Conversation.  It is very important to stay out of logistics with this conversation. Allow your partner to connect with you! Don’t critique. The goal is that each person speaks for about 7-8 minutes.  If you have to ask questions to keep your partner talking, do so.  If you don’t like questions, give more information and detail!

#4 Connection Conversation: The connecting conversation will be a way of circling back to those topics that may get brought up briefly during the Hypervigilance Communication. This is the time to talk about what is meaningful to you and do more of a deep dive into conversation. The point of this type of communication is intimacy. Establish a set time to have these conversations and make them about connecting.  My husband and I call this “porch time”.  We each bring a beverage on one of our porches and patios and just spend time talking about what is going on, what we are looking forward to, if we hurt one another, or whatever else may come to mind.

Goals of Connecting Conversation:

Make someone feel seen

You want them to feel on your team

Stay out of judgement

Do not try to fix it.

Ask questions that express interest

Summarize their main points and express feelings that you are hearing them share

Provide verbal support

Ask for what they need from you or how you can help

#5 State of the Union Conversation: Set aside a time once a month to talk about budgets, decisions, logistics, dreams, vacation, goals, etc. Set goals and visit them. Share your dreams and visions for the future. How can you support each other’s dreams and visions? This type of conversation needs to be scheduled! Check in to see how these are going and what needs to be adjusted. You might want to determine an agenda so you can both be prepared and hit all the highlights. It will set the direction for the conversation. Be sure to schedule your NEXT meeting and have follow ups for the agenda.

Be sure to pick up my book Hold the Line: The Essential to Protecting Your Law Enforcement Relationship!

Pick up the free guide and workbook here.

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Five Easy Communication Hacks for Law Enforcement Relationships

It’s incredibly important that we set up communication rituals to make sure we not only have regular and effective communication, but expectations.

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