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Better Communication

The stresses brought by serious illness can make good communication difficult. To complicate matters, CFS and FM bring the additional challenge of cognitive problems. Here are seven ideas for improving communication if you or your partner have CFS or FM.

Pick a Good Time and Setting

If you have something important to discuss with a significant person in your life, select a time when both of you will be at your best. It should be a time when both of the person with CFS or FM can give good attention and won't be distracted by pain or brain fog, preferably during his or her best hours of the day. Choose a place that minimizes distractions and interruptions.
Practice Good Listening Skills

Good communication is based on each person understanding the other person's views. Understanding begins with listening, which means focusing your attention on what is being said, with the goal of understanding the speaker's point of view. Listening works best if it occurs without interruption.
Focus on One Thing at a Time and Be Specific

Focus on one issue at a time. If you are requesting that the other person change, be specific in your request. Avoid making general requests such as, "I need help with the housework." Instead, say something like, "Can you do a load of laundry today?" or "Can you do the grocery shopping?"
Aim for Solutions

Have as your goal finding solutions, not blaming one another or finding fault. It may be helpful to remember that the illness creates problems for both of you. The idea is to be able to discuss problems in a constructive rather than a confrontational way. Treat each other with respect, acknowledging his or her support and effort. Avoid demeaning comments, sarcasm and blaming. Acknowledge your part in shared problems and express appreciation for the other's efforts.
Use Problem Solving

Use problem solving to find solutions. Begin by brainstorming, which means thinking of a variety of possible ways to solve a problem. Then evaluate each proposed solution, decide which ones are most promising and try one or two of them. 

Third, after giving each solution a fair try, evaluate the results. Some potential remedies may not work, so you may need to have further discussions and try other solutions. The final solution may be a combination of several approaches.
Consider Getting Help

In many cases, you will be able to solve your problems yourself, but at times you may want to get help, either in understanding the causes of your problem or in finding solutions. So it may help to ask what resources are available to you. 

For example, to get a fresh perspective on your situation, you might ask other families how they have solved a similar problem. Also, if conversations about your problems are not productive, you can consider getting professional help. A counselor can facilitate a solution to particular problems and also help you practice good problem solving skills.
Have Regular Problem Solving Discussions

Set aside a regular time for relationship discussions. One couple in the self-help program sets aside Sunday evening as their time to discuss any issue on either person's mind, calling it their "talk night."

Having scheduled time for discussion means that both husband and wife know that they have a forum in which to state problems and frustrations, and a means for finding solutions. Also, because the talks are frequent, they can refine their communication skills through regular practice.

The husband explains, "Anything either of us sees as a problem or causing stress is a likely topic. Even very minor things are OK." Topics include an issue one has with the other, problems with friends or children or problems around the house. 

He says, "a rule is the we each openly listen to the other without being defensive. We problem-solve together to come up with a resolution for each issue. After doing talk night we start each week refreshed and with the feeling that comes from having dealt with whatever problems were there." 

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