COMMUNICATION TIPS FOR SEPARATION & DIVORCE
Talking with an ex-partner can often be difficult, particularly when you are in the middle of negotiating a separation agreement or divorce settlement. Even if you are in an assisted family law process, such as Collaborative Law or Mediation, talking with your ex-partner can be emotional and confusing, and decision-making can often seem overwhelming.
There are some basic things that you can do to help prepare yourself for negotiations with your former partner. Ultimately, good communication will help you reach your legal, financial, and family goals as well as enhancing co-parenting in the future.
In Collaborative Law, your divorce coach, financial specialist, and lawyer can help you stay focused, and to keep your emotions in check. In Mediation, the mediator will assist both parties to draw out their issues and make sure the environment is safe and constructive for discussions.
Regardless of the legal process you are undertaking in your separation, the following communication tips will help you cope with your feelings and stay focused on resolving the family law issues at hand.
PLAN FOR THE DISCUSSION
*Pick a good time for you both. Make and keep an appointment if necessary.
*Bring up one thing at a time.
*Take some deep breaths, and try to be calm.
*Be specific, limited, and direct with your question or concern.
*Let go of anger generated by trivial issues.
*Giving “the silent treatment”.
*Bringing up an issue at a time embarrassing to the other person.
*Gunny sacking – saving up little hurts and hostilities, then dumping them all at once.
WHAT TO SAY/HOW TO SAY IT
*Choose your words carefully.
*Use “I” statements (“I’m frustrated about…”).
*Be specific and concise (one or two sentences at a time).
*Say what you really mean.
*Stay in the present; use current examples.
*Stick to behaviors, not personality.
* Generalizing – “You never…” or “I’m always…”
* Labeling, name caIling, character assassination.
* Mind reading – telling the other person what they’re thinking and feeling.
* Dwelling on past grievances.
* Blaming the other person for your problem.
* Hitting below the belt– purposely calling attention to known weaknesses or areas of sensitivity.
* Exaggerating – overreacting to a situation or making idle threats or ultimatums.
*Take your time to listen.
*Empathize—think about the other person’s message, what they may be feeling etc.
*Paraphrase, or ask for clarification.
*Attend with your body language, eye contact etc.
*Preparing your “defense” in advance.
*Treating your conversation like a competition.
*Take your time–count to 10, or more.
*Try not to take the other person’s statements personally.
*Check out the other person’s feelings and thoughts.
*Use “I” statements; “When I hear…..I feel…….”.
*Take responsibility for your actions, and don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong”.
*Take a time-out if you need to collect your thoughts.
*Ignoring the person.
*Belittling the person, or their concerns.
*Try to determine, what the particular problem or issue is.
*Try to solve the problem together.
*See if there is a way for each of you to get something you need/want.
*Keep to the subject. Try to resolve one issue before moving to another.
*Realize that not all problems will be solved in a day; it may take time.
*Consider the value of maintaining your relationship, during all discussions.
*Holding a position, or setting an ultimatum “it’s my way or the highway”.
*Walking out, name calling, generalizing etc.
*Presenting non-negotiable demands.
*Overwhelming each other with a list of concerns.
*Thinking the other person must lose if you are to win (and vice-versa).
*Be ready to forgive, or let some things go.
*Allow for interim or temporary solutions.
*If the issue isn’t resolved right now, make an appointment to finish it later.
*If the issue is resolved, try to finish with an expression of positive feelings that you’ve worked together successfully.
*Focus on the future, and not the past.
*Breaking previous agreements.
*Pretending to go along, or to agree when you really don’t.
*Giving up or shutting down.
Jayne Embree M.A.
Divorce Coach and Child Specialist
Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. Currently on sabbatical, Jayne is conducting research in the area of family dynamics and parental conflict.
Areas of Practice: Family law including separation, divorce, mediation, arbitration, child & spousal support, support variations, guardianship, parenting time, access, property division and more.