Communication during divorce can be frustrating and triggering — maybe it’s time for a new conversation?
Did your mother ever tell you that you could catch more bees with honey? Well, hopefully someone did. Want to know why? Because it applies in divorce (and life) too. I’m serious.
Now before you think I’m going to ask you to get all saccharine sweet with your soon-to-be-ex or tell you to suck it up and be a doormat — nothing could be further from the truth. But I want to teach you an invaluable skill that I refer to as ‘inclusive communication’.
I’m sure that it will come as no surprise to you that HOW we say things and HOW we convey messages (good or bad) directly impacts the outcome. Seems simple enough, right?
Well, when it comes to divorce, you are likely swimming in emotions — up one minute, plummeting the next and easily triggered — and same for your partner. Cut yourself some slack but recognize where you are and how that will set the tone of any conversation.
If you need a reminder of that, just recall any communication in your life that may have gone awry because you felt you had to respond in the heat of the moment (and then regretted it later).
Clearly, it’s best not to have any communication when we are upset in any way. It clouds our judgment and steers us away from our ultimate desire — peaceful resolution and keeping the kids out of the conflict.
Soooo...how do we do this ‘inclusive communication’?
I work with my clients through this all the time. They start telling me a scenario, recounting what they said and how it was received. I have unbiased perspective so I can easily see where their delivery may have triggered their partner. We then unpack it and reframe it.
Divorce is full of tricky topics; money, self-worth, entitlement, parenting plans, legal docs, new partners and all the minutia that gets caught in the middle.
The most important thing is to remember how you want to feel and get clear about your objectives.
This might be hard to receive at first, but when we approach our difficult conversations with a vein of inclusivity, cooperation and kindness — we get our honey. And best part, we feel good about it later.
A client recently had an issue where a question she had posed to her husband in an email had gone unanswered for months. She also leaned into her own intel and knowledge of this person and realized that he would likely not want to answer and might get fed up and head straight for an attorney rather than use a mediator if pushed, merely as a result of wanting to avoid conflict.
We deconstructed it, contemplating and incorporating this information about him. I guided her to be mindful of his triggers and to rework her follow up to him:
“Hey, I just wanted to circle back around regarding _____ (fill in your own issue) because it’s been a few months. I know you are busy. We’re all sorting through a lot of changes. I also want to say that we are rocking this co-parenting thing and I appreciate it. I think we can take that same energy into the other areas of our divorce as well! I was wondering if you would want me to take the lead on this. Let me know what you think?”
Can you recognize the subtle nuances? No accusations. No hidden innuendos. No jabs. She still set out to achieve her goal, but her language didn’t put him on the defensive. It didn’t feel like threatening verbiage, instead, a reminder of what is possible.
This is a skill and not necessarily an easy one initially, but one that is well worth it.
Less is more when two people are divorcing. Keep the communication simple. Refrain from too much editorializing and oversharing. The harsh reality is that this isn’t your person to lean on any longer. Compliment the things that are going right (even if you are being annoyed in other areas). Approach all conversations as collaborative rather than the spirit of being overly assertive (even if this is a one-sided street...you won’t regret it). This will avoid derailing the entire discussion.
Kind communication fosters softness and can even provide surprising results. It is disarming.
Refrain from kneejerk responses, angry retorts, and revenge. Everyone loses here. When you are in command of what you want to say and how you say it, you feel really good about yourself. And you will feel really good about what you are modeling for your kids.
Yes, it may feel like the impossibly difficult ‘high road’ at times, but it is a winning strategy. And mark my words — it is strategy. This isn’t about agreeing to anything you don’t feel aligned with, it is about aligning with exactly who you want to be. Toss in a little honey for those bees before you get stung, momma!
You catch more bees with honey in life (and divorce).
—Kristen Noel, Certified Intuitive Divorce Coach | Editor-In-Chief, Best Self Magazine
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