Originally published on Collaborative Divorce California

At this point you’ve seen all the quotes about healthy communication being the cornerstone of any long-lasting relationship.  If you’re reading this, chances are you and your soon to be ex haven’t been communicating well for quite some time now.  In today’s blog entry, I’m sharing some handy communication skills that will help improve the communication between you and your spouse even during your divorce.

  1. Use “I” messages.  Nothing makes us more combative than when we feel like someone is waving a finger in our faces and starting off the conversation with “You did XX.”  Try diffusing the situation by starting with an “I” message – this style of communication focuses on the feelings or beliefs of the speaker rather than thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener.  Try saying things like, “I feel sad when I experience XX.”  This type of communication allows the speaker to be assertive without being combative.
  2. Manage your emotions.  The divorce process is absolutely an emotional event; through that process sometimes not allowing our emotions to take over seems and feels impossible.  When dealing with difficult situations with your spouse, it’s easy to lash out in anger.  Remember to PAUSE.  Take a deep breath, notice thoughts, feelings, and impulses.  Then take another breath to consider what is going on around you including interactions with others.  Once you consider both of these things, you can decide what you want to do and say.  You realize that you can act in a way that is most useful or effective.  Just remember: once you say it, email it or text it, you’ve got to own it.  Managing emotions is a key to participating in a dialogue with your soon-to-be-ex.
  3. Mirroring technique.  When you say to your friends my spouse never listens to me, you’re actually onto something.  We often assign our own experiences to what is being said to us.  One way to ensure you’re hearing your partner accurately is to repeat what they say to you.  Ask him or her, “I want to make sure I understand.  Are you saying XX?”  Often, we mishear and misinterpret and this is a great opportunity for your partner to clarify.
  4. Listening.  Someone said that “we have two ears and one mouth,” indicating the importance of listening.  Do not roll your eyes and exhibit disinterest.  If you do not show interest, you have already lost the communication.  Resist the temptation to interrupt Listen!  You will get your turn.
  5. Be careful with texting, emails, and social media postings.  Let me just say here, nothing is more cringeworthy than watching a judge or an arbitrator listen to a long-winded rant you posted on your Facebook wall about your soon-to-be-ex.  Also, you don’t want your angry text messages being read aloud either.  Do what you can to keep your texts, emails and communication factual and drama free.  Remember, what you write or say may be heard later by a judge, friend or family member.

The Communication Coach in a Collaborative Divorce

In a Collaborative Divorce, each party has a communication coach to assist the parties in communicating with each other.  Communication coaches play a key role in a Collaborative Divorce case by facilitating the difficult conversations and helping to complete the divorce process in a meaningful way.  Lessons learned about communication during divorce will serve you well after divorce.

To summarize, use your toolbox.  Do not be afraid to learn.  Be open.  Set yourself up for success.  Success takes work but you can achieve it if you remain mindful of how you communicate with your spouse.