Good communication can be difficult to maintain in stressful daily life. The ability to talk to each other is an essential ingredient in what is called quality time. How is this in a relationship? ‘Quality of life’, ‘quality time’ and other terms related to ‘quality’ are in regular use. Pause and think about what this means.
‘Quality of life’, ‘quality time’ and other terms related to ‘quality’ are in regular use. Pause and think about what this means. Quality is intrinsic to an experience but there seems to be a wide range of interpretations about what quality means. Consider the case of a woman who made it a point to spend an hour of ‘quality time’ with her teenage daughter every day. These sessions normally ended in flaming rows with her daughter and had her questioning what ‘quality time’ was about anyway?
Let us think about the term ‘quality’. When an airline company talks about quality, the customer expects an experience of safety, comfort and any other benefits to be accrued. A retailer may want to put forth a high ‘quality’ experience to the customer based on value, feel and speed. A service provider looks to create a service that makes the user feel good about the purchase. Organizations the world over recognize the quality of their internal processes and products determine their success in the market. Merrill highlights the belief that ‘Customer opinion of our products and services is the most valuable driving force for our business.’
When we speak of quality, we think in terms of well-defined processes that help guarantee an outcome. A high quality diet ensures good health and appearance while high quality exercise increases the feeling of fitness. Quality in the medical industry assures the customer of the safety of medicines and health services. The same applies to quality in our personal lives. The difference lies in the fact that the end-customer is the self and family or partners. The processes refer to those of thought, discussion and behavior patterns that a family adopts.
Let us return to the case of the quality time between mother and teenage daughter. The mother had intended that there would be serious discussion since communication between them was lacking. The daughter on her part was unsure of why this exercise was being done at all. The good maternal effort was rewarded with belligerence and resentment. Families with working parents and young children will commonly face the issue of low communication. Work pressures on the adults and the young take away a large part of the time. Home administration, health maintenance and the effort to direct children appropriately can overwhelm the most resilient among us. Communication becomes transactional and difficult to sustain under the various pressures.
A quality process in a relationship is one that leaves both members feeling good in each other’s company. A few moments in shared laughter, joint activity or just light conversation can help people bond much better than a formalized approach. If the quality time is intended for individual benefit, gauge its effectiveness on how you feel. You may decide to enter an exercise program to ‘look after yourself’ and come away feeling too tired. If this is a recurring experience, it is time to review the diet and exercise patterns.
Quality involves introducing new and better processes into a lifestyle and verifying user acceptance (in this case the body) before inculcating them as a part of your life. An increased quality should provide benefits like better sense of well-being, positive mental frame and improved health.
Planning quality time
Possibly the conversation between the mother and daughter veers to criticism and judgments making the daughter prefer to avoid the communication. The pattern of communication has been set and requires a complete change. For one thing, the mother should consider what her daughter likes doing. Maybe window shopping or a trip to the movies or a long drive for the perfect ice cream can create a congenial environment for the rift in the relationship to be set right. The mother must decide to avoid touchy issues that will bring back the same reactions. A relaxing outing that allows the mother to see the innate abilities of the daughter and vice versa can be an eye opener. In order for the relationship to thaw, the two parties must be in a state of relaxation.
What are the conversations the mother can initiate? The mother may be wary about the friend’s circle that her daughter has become a part of or of behavior patterns on display that suggest a bigger problem elsewhere. An accusatory approach will yield no benefit while one that makes the teenager give in on the strength of emotional blackmail will lead to a suppression of facts.
The mother may start by relating errors of judgment that she made as a youngster. This helps the daughter to realize that the mother is not approaching the conversation from a higher ground. The daughter may feel defensive initially but when she sees that she is not directly under attack, it is an invitation to stay. The mother may relate things she saw and experienced and how her friends and their parents managed their situations. If the daughter has similar stories to relate, she may open up a little. Depending on the mindset, the girl may choose to listen to the narratives and relate them with her experiences without sharing her doubts openly.
The time shared can be measured for its quality on the strength of improvements in communication, openness, ability to openly discuss ‘touchy’ issues and share perspectives. The individuals involved must start to feel a stronger emotional bond and trust as a result of the efforts to improve the quality of the time spent together.
Merrill Peter, 2009. Do It Right the Second Time.