What We’ve Learned About Relationships During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This unprecedented time has taught us so much about the essential ingredients for relationships to thrive.

Westend61/ Getty Images
Westend61/ Getty Images

As we navigate this unprecedented time, there have been many lessons — and some of the most profound have been about relationships. We’ve been shown the importance of compassion, flexibility, and empathy in our relationships both in life and at work. We’ve had to embrace new ways to meet people, connect with friends, check in with colleagues, and communicate with loved ones. 

We asked our Thrive community to share some of the essential ingredients of their relationships during the pandemic. Which of these resonate with you?

Empathy

“As we adapt to new ways to connect and maintain relationships, the single most important quality or skill I’ve noticed is empathy. When we are able to put ourselves in a place of understanding, it becomes the cornerstone for mindful communication. We all need a little reassurance from time to time and it is important to surround ourselves with those who lift us up.”

—Trish Tonaj, author, coach, speaker, mentor, Toronto, Canada

Pausing before responding

“I have always been one to think before I respond. During this pandemic, with so much together time, I found my patience truly tested! However, picking our battles and thinking about how we respond is of the utmost importance. We cannot take back things we say. We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. Our reactions can change everything — so use it for the best results.”

—Dana Walker, life coach, San Diego, CA

Checking in on people

“The one thing that I have learned about relationships during this time is that good communication is vital. It is important to nurture and to cultivate our friendships daily by checking in with one another. I’ve learned to not ignore messages or leave people on ‘read,’ because there might be something going on that they won’t share in words necessarily, but in subtle messages. Check in with those people who suddenly are quiet, even if it is just a simple ‘hope you’re doing okay.’ Call someone, text, send that email to an old friend, and keep those connections as close as you can.”

—Elaine Hamilton, author, Seattle, WA

True presence

“Because I enjoy social gatherings and love to meet people in person, I thought this time would be really hard on me. However, instead of going to networking events where you may not be able to lead a meaningful conversation with anyone, I ended up having numerous one-on-one virtual discussions with individuals I had wanted to meet. I learned that this way of connecting allows us to take the time to get to know each other, and be completely focused on our conversation. I never thought that connecting virtually may help build a solid foundation for lasting relationships.”

—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Orange County, CA

Acceptance

“I have come to realize that relationships need time and acceptance. In the past, I neglected to spend time with some family members and friends, simply because I didn’t understand their thoughts and actions. This time helped me reflect on those relationships in a different light. I understand the importance of accepting them for who they are, and realizing we don’t need to have the same perspective on everything.”

—Aakriti Agarwal, coach and facilitator, Hyderabad, India

Taking space for yourself 

“Since lockdown started, my husband and I have both been working from home. We are now together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve had to talk about boundaries, communication, and the importance of giving each other some space. I’ll admit I need more space than he does, and have found my voice to tell him when I need to be alone without feeling like I’m hurting his feelings or taking time away from ‘us.’ We’ve been together for over 17 years and this time has brought us closer together and enriched our marriage on a level we hadn’t explored before.”

—Hema Crockett, entrepreneur, San Diego, CA

Flexibility 

“I’ve learned that it is easy to keep in touch, as long as you make it easy for those you’re staying in touch with. I have some family members who wouldn’t have a clue if I suggested a Zoom or Facetime, so I settle in with a cup of tea and call them. One of my friends strictly uses Facebook  Messenger, while another uses WhatsApp. As an introvert, I have enjoyed keeping in touch while being able to stay home, take my time, and consider what I want to say. I’m not suggesting it’s as personal as getting together over a glass of wine or a slice of cake, but as long as you are willing to adjust to other peoples’ communication methods, there is always a way to stay connected.”

—Jacqui Flavell, life coach, London, UK

Mindful communication 

“Given social distancing and online communication, I’ve found that preparing people for discussions in advance really helps move the conversation to deeper levels. Open-ended questions are particularly effective. When I have time to think about a given subject beforehand, I am able to focus more on what others say and articulate more clearly what I want to contribute.” 

—Diane Gillespie, emerita professor, Seattle, WA

Compassionate directness 

“During lockdown, I’ve learned the importance of maintaining a balance between compassion (for myself and for others) and knowing what I want. I need to remember that we’re all not at our best, and there’s no way to be at our best during challenging times. When I remember this, I can breathe, calm myself down, and give others the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, I still get to recognize and ask for what I want. If I want a hug, I get to ask for it. If I want you to not say that to me, I get to ask for it. It’s important to be mindful of others but also speak up for ourselves.”

—Lisa Kohn, author and executive coach, Wayne, PA

What has the pandemic taught you about relationships and communication? Share with us in the comments. 

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