One of the toughest things we have to deal with on the road is that phone call from home that you tend to answer with ‘NOW WHAT’S WRONG’?
While on the road, there are a lot of things that happen back home that are completely out of your control. I'm thinking of flooded basements, power outages, car won’t start, junior kicked the neighbor’s cat, sissy goes to the emergency room because she got a splinter. You get the picture.
These things are stressful enough when you're at home dealing with them. But when you are on the road, they can be downright overwhelming.
So, how are you supposed to deal with the third phone call from home in the last 30 minutes about any one of these issues?
For me, part of the problem when I would get one of those phone calls was my own perception. When the wife called to say the water heater quit working, two things happened. First, I took what she was saying as though it were my fault it broke. Second, it was now my responsibility to fix from 500 miles away.
That is what I heard, but that was not what she was saying. What she was saying was that she was having a terrible day and just wanted to share that with me. She wanted me to know how she was struggling.
Men and women tend to handle trouble in different ways. She wanted me to hear that this had made her whole day a wreck. She couldn't do the laundry, and now she wouldn't be able to give the dog a bath tonight either. She just wanted me to listen and maybe say that I was sorry she was having to go through all this and that I really admired her for being able to adapt when she has to face these kind of things with me being gone.
But that’s not what I said.
What I said was...
"Okay, I will try and get the thing fixed just as soon as I can get home."
Her phone call put me in full plumber mode. I needed to call my brother in-law to see if I could borrow his pickup when I got home. Then I would call Farm & Fleet to make sure the water heater was in stock. As soon as I was home, I would turn the water off, disconnect the old unit and haul it out of the basement. Finally, I'd get my brother-in-law's truck, buy the water heater, then install the thing.
There, problem solved!
...at least in my head. I had a plan and was ready to execute it. But, I had missed the whole point of her call.
Almost every one of us who are married and on the road have a strong woman at home. You know you do. She could call her brother or the plumber on her own to get the problem fixed. I'd bet she even has that process in motion already.
She's a strong woman. She's married to a trucker after all. She's got this.
The take away here is to LISTEN. Not just to what is being said but how it is being said. Don’t interrupt. Don’t offer advice. Don’t blame her for breaking it. Just listen and then let her know you are sorry you’re not there to help. You would be surprised how much smaller the problem will be by the time the call ends.
This idea of listening first can be applied to any phone call you get. Whether it's with your wife, your kids, your buddy, or even your dispatcher.
But just in case, you might keep your brother-in-law's phone number in your wallet.
Garrie Atkins has more than 27 years experience as a truck driver, 24 of them with Nussbaum. He left the driver's seat to join our operations department as a Driver Manager in 2002. His experience and insight are invaluable in his day-to-day interaction with drivers. Learn more about Garrie here, or read his previous article, "The Hardest Easy Job In The World."