You may think that talking about communication in the context of divorce is a lot like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. The truth is, however, that it’s never too late to improve our communication skills, especially if we want to improve our relationships all around, not just with our current significant other.
And just because your communication may not have been great during the marriage, doesn’t mean that communicating about a divorce needs to be difficult.
There are many ways to communicate, including verbally, in writing, with pictures, films, etc. One form of communication we don’t often think about is our body language, which is always present in face-to-face conversations; another is our tone of voice.
In interpersonal relationships, especially marriage, I’d wager that the only form of communication that immediately impacts our relationship is verbal communication. After all, we don’t usually discuss or argue anything meaningful with our spouse in writing. Even if we trade angry text messages, we eventually end up communicating verbally.
If you have a framework to express yourself, you can improve your chances of getting your point across effectively without creating unnecessary negative feelings for yourself and the other person.
What do you want to say and Why do you want to say it?
If we want to communicate in a way that is productive, we first have to know what is it that we want to get across to the other person. If all you have is a vague feeling that makes you uncomfortable, you may just blurt out whatever comes to mind. This in turn, may lead to misunderstandings, making a situation worse.
Talking about a divorce, or talking with your spouse while in the middle of a divorce, can make you feel extremely anxious or angry. You just may want to vent and release that feeling. But, in doing so, you may end up feeling worse if you have no clear idea of what it is that is making you anxious so that you can prepare a coherent message.
For this reason, it’s better to avoid saying anything until you’ve had time to cool, and think through what you want to get across.
Knowing why you want to say something is related to knowing what you want to say. If the only reason to say something is to hurt the person you are saying it to, then it’s probably best to not say anything until you’ve had a chance to think and put things in perspective. For some, going through a divorce is often very difficult, particularly if they are the spouse that doesn’t want the divorce. Speaking to a friend, therapist or even just taking time to think it through alone can go a long way to helping you refine what you want to say.
How are you going to say it?
How you say something includes not only the actual words you use, but also your tone of voice and body language. Focusing on having an open body language and an appropriate tone of voice can go a long way in help your message. It can help ensure that it comes across in a non-threatening and non-judgmental manner.
For married couples this is a big consideration. Who knows better than our spouse what our usual verbal cues and body postures mean? It pays to be mindful of our tone and body language as we discuss anything with our spouse to avoid sending cues you’re not even aware of.
Are you ready to listen?
You may be anxious to just talk about what bothers you and what is important to you. So you may not be too interested in listening to the other person. But communication is a two-way street. If all you do is speak without taking time to listen then all you are doing is making a speech. This is not necessarily something that will get your point across. After a while, the other person may just not hear your message since they may tune you out.
In addition, you will not have any feedback to know whether they understand you or whether you need to refine what you’re saying to be better understood.
It’s not easy to keep the above steps in mind in the middle of a divorce. It takes effort and practice regardless of the situation; but paying attention to these steps can go a long way in maintaining some civility during the process of divorce.
Better still, it can help overall with communicating effectively with others. I have found these steps useful in my own relationships; and they certainly have helped me in communicating better with my spouse.
Finally, if your is a divorce with children, communication with your soon-to-be-Ex is always going to be important.
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