Really there are two biggies that get parents who are going though a separation or divorce in trouble when communicating with each other. The first is the tone of the communication, and the second is one’s rationale underlying the communication.
1. Tone – Regardless of what we are seeking to communicate, our perceived tone in the communication can set people off. If our tone is critical, sarcastic, blaming, shaming, the other person involved in the conversation is not likely to receive the communication well. In fact, it’s likely that the other person will get defensive and concentrate on the delivery and not the message.
2. Rationale – Some separated parents just can’t resist letting the other know how they feel about something, or their assessment of the other person as the rationale for something they are seeking to resolve. This is a set up to distract from what the conversation is really trying to achieve as the parent hearing the complaint or criticism may get caught up in arguing about the rationale when in fact, they may have been in agreement with whatever was proposed.
Dos – What to do in these circumstances:
1. Tone – Always keep your tone of voice neutral. Convey comments, requests, etc., informationally. Resist adding emotionality to the content of your communication. Doing so helps the listener concentrate on the message you are seeking to deliver.
2. Rationale – Skip it! More often than not, it is less important why you may be seeking what you are seeking than just determining if what you are seeking can be accommodated. So rather than saying, I know you are always late, so I want you to come earlier, just ask if the other can come earlier. Don’t provide a set up to argue over the rationale. This is not to say one will get what they ask for, but it leaves the discussion about the ask.
Throughout, the last piece of advice is to manage oneself if or when triggered. By managing oneself and not getting drawn into tone or rationales, you can keep the communication on track and with regard to the matters that truly need to be addressed or settled.