Your Health
While you're on the road, how are your communication skills with loved ones?

By Buck Black, therapist, L.C.S.W.

It seems to be the rule that the worst problems arise while you are on the road. How do you handle them? Do you ignore the problems and hope for the best or do you deal with it head-on, even if you are on the road? Or do you need to come home?

Before problems arise, it is important to have steady and good-quality communication with your friends and family. If communication is intermittent or poor quality, the stage is set for disagreements and misunderstandings.

I have a lot of clients who feel they call home often enough, but their partner or family accuses them of giving the silent treatment. Even though you may feel that you have good communication, the other party may not agree. Be sure to ask them if they feel you are calling enough and the conversations are enjoyable. Make sure you check in with one another regularly.

It may be hard to believe, but I have plenty of clients who actually communicate too much. It is obvious that the driver is doing his or her best to stay in touch. However, talking for hours on end becomes unproductive. Even worse, the conversations can become one-sided. In order to have good communication, both people need to have equal time. Some people monopolize the conversation by talking about themselves too much, and others do not want to focus on themselves at all. Balance is key.

Ways to increase communication while on the road:

  • Develop a routine for making phone calls so both of you will look forward to the conversation.
  • Take as much home time as you can afford. Face-to-face communication is ideal.
  • Get connected with the trucking world. Interact with drivers on social media and at truck shows in order to keep those communication skills sharp.
  • Do your best to get enough sleep, eat a decent diet, and get a little exercise. This will keep you in the best spirits and help you to maintain good relationships.
  • Be sure to speak up if you don’t understand what the other person is saying.
  • If the cellphone or Internet connection is bad, tell the other person.
  • Make “I statements” by saying “I feel …”
  • Avoid saying “You make me feel …” This will put them on the defensive.
  • When discussing serious subjects while on the road, especially with your partner, use phone (or video, if possible) in order to help with accurate communication. Your tone of voice can often make a world’s difference in regards to working problems out or causing new ones.
  • Be sure to make your calls when you still have good energy. If you call at the end of your day, this can really hurt enthusiasm and attention.
  • Keep as much of a mix of email, phone, and old-fashioned letters as possible. Everyone is used to getting calls and emails. Postcards are one of those neat little things that most people enjoy and are not expecting.
  • Send a small and inexpensive gift to your loved one. Again, this can mix things up a bit and be fun for both parties involved.
  • “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” by John Gottman is a research-based book I recommend to my clients. It is even available in audiobook format so you can learn while driving.

Remember, being proactive is the key to good communication. Once good communication is established, your home life and professional life will be much smoother. If you use these basic communication skills on a regular basis, your quality of life can improve significantly.

Please let me know what helps you to communicate when you are on the road. Tweet me: @TruckerTherapy. LL

Buck Black is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker therapist who specializes in helping truckers and their families with anger and stress management, as well as depression and relationship problems. He does this over the phone, and Skype at TruckerTherapy.com. This column is not necessarily the opinion of Land Line Magazine.