Building Blocks of Effective Communication After Divorce
Communicating with a former spouse or partner will not always be easy. It may not even be particularly pleasant. But if you must for the benefit of your children, the one thing communication should always aim to be is effective.
Ineffective communication—whether that's due to feelings of anger, confusion, or nerves—can lead to unneeded stress and conflict. When you and your co-parent struggle to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, not only does co-parenting become more difficult, your children may also feel the effects of disorganized shared parenting.
For the sake of giving your children a happier, healthier childhood with both of their parents involved, applying effective communication techniques to your conversations with your co-parent will be to your advantage.
The first building block of effective communication after divorce is a joint commitment to raise your kids in a healthy environment. Remembering this commitment can help you and your co-parent reach a point in which you have an effective parenting partnership.
With that commitment always in mind, you can turn your attention towards establishing the other building blocks of effective communication.
Effective communication greatly relies on language and word choice. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can quickly turn a conversation down an unintended path. Words can sometimes be misconstrued and given new meaning by the listener, so it is important to choose wisely.
Choose the right words to properly convey what you need to say. Avoid language that serves no other purpose than to hurt the other person. This would include name calling, vulgar language, and sarcasm.
Just like how word choice is important, the way you deliver those words is just as relevant towards building effective communication. Your method of delivery, the tone of voice, and timing are all aspects to consider when communicating.
Choose a method that allows you to accurately deliver your message. Depending on what you're talking about and how well you communicate verbally with your co-parent, face-to-face or phone conversations might not always be the best way to convey certain messages.
Written communication may serve some co-parents better, as it gives the space and time some may need to say what they mean clearly. Written methods of communication also provide a good solution for conversing about more serious topics, as records of your conversation can be referenced at a later date if necessary.
But even when using written communication as your method of choice, tone still carries a lot of weight.
The tone of written communication isn't all based on word choice; punctuation speaks volumes. Using all capital letters, quotation marks, underlining, and other punctuation can change the tone of your written voice in a way that may be unintended.
Finally, timing can have a huge impact on how a person receives a message. A parenting time changeover, for example, probably isn't the right time to broach touchy subjects with your co-parent. Keep more serious conversations reserved for times when you and your co-parent can properly focus on the matter at hand without putting your kids in the middle of conflict.
There are times to talk, and there are times to listen. It is often true that moments of listening are just as, if not more, crucial to building effective communication after divorce. When you do not properly hear what the other person has to say, how are you supposed to make an adequate response?
Be attentive during conversations with your co-parent, listening carefully or completely reading messages you receive. Don't jump to respond. Take a moment to take in what you've heard, then formulate your response. If you don't know what to say or feel as if you're about to explode, it is okay to say that you need to talk about this later. Don't forget the conversation, though. Come back to it when you are ready to focus and give a calm, effective response.
If you're trying to overcome poor communication habits, consistently practicing effective communication techniques will be key to making real and lasting change. Set yourself up for success by always having a clear picture of why you're trying to change the way you communicate, and practice the following techniques:
- Commit to regularly checking in with your co-parent about your children
- Plan for conversations ahead of time in order to give it your full attention
- Be consistent about sharing concerns you have right away. Don't let issues or bad feelings fester.
- Maintain open lines of communication so you can work together as a team, rather than unknowingly countering each other's efforts
As long as you are dedicated to creating a better life for your kids, the building blocks of effective communication after divorce are easy to put into practice. Language, delivery, listening, and consistency are elements that can help to improve the way that you and your co-parent communicate, which will also help you to build a more solid relationship as partners in parenting.