Effective communication

Effective communication also involves the ability to listen also. A big part of communicating as being able to analyse what is being said to you, how you interpret it and your appropriate responses. What is the other person trying to say? What is their perspective? How do you perceive what they are saying to you? Are you responding out of a negative emotional standpoint eg anger or hurt and how is that affecting your responses? What needs to be said to get the results you want? Is there another way of saying what message you need to get across? Can you write it down first and read it back to yourself or relay the message to a friend first perhaps?

Make a list of the options you have to say what you need to and contemplate the responses you would like in return. Maybe it’s pick up and drop off times for the children and you want to change them but it won’t be well received. Think about how can you reword your request so it will not be confrontational

Effective listening

When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them.  Stop, just listen.  When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify to ensure you have received their message accurately.

Focus on the speaker.  Put other things out of mind.  The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my train, is it going to rain – try to put other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated.

Remember their needs and concerns. Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue. 

Maintain eye contact but don’t stare – show you are listening and understanding what is being said.

Don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. Avoid unnecessary interruptions.  These behaviours disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.

Look at issues from their perspective.  Let go of preconceived ideas.  By having an open mind we can more fully empathise with the other person.  If the speaker says something that you disagree with then wait and construct an argument to counter what is said but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others.  

Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

Try to be impartial, listen to the tone of voice and listen for Ideas. Re frame the issue. Reframing is a term used in mediation which simply means to re phrasing a sentence or a particular issue to make sure all parties understand what has been said.

Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication.

We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.

Do not jump to conclusions about what you see and hear. You should always seek clarification to ensure that your understanding is correct.

Mediation is a method of communication usually involving a third party who oversees the communication process. Often it may be a professional mediator who has been requested by one or both parties to provide a structured environment for parties to engage in conversation about finances, the children etc…

A family member or friend may be asked to mediate which has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. Family or friends can often be too emotionally attached to act as mediator but not in all cases. If there are some simple matters to resolve this can be done quite adequately by the family member or friend and even it may be that the parties do not have to be in the same environment at the same time. A phone, call or email to both parties may well suffice.

Again, by having a good understanding of thoughts feelings actions and results chart is all a vital part in being able to communicate effectively and manage one’s own behaviour.  

Effective communication in divorce 

The below phrases are extracts from a book called ‘Communication Basics’ and they are quoted here purely to illustrate how easily communication can break down between people under every day circumstances, yet alone those coping with separation and divorce. 

Anger, despair, sadness and stress are likely to affect the lines of communication between you, your ex, the children and other family members. 

Taking time out to reflect and consider what you want to say irrespective of how you feel internally can help to keep communication respectful and to the point. 

‘Communication-simple yet complex, easy to do and easy to blunder ’. 

‘We send from 100-300 messages a day. These include the message we intend to send; the message we actually send; the message as the responder interprets it; the response of the hearer based on what he/she heard and our reaction to the exchange of words, meaning and interpretation.’ 

The book goes further on to say; ‘we only hear half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that and remember only half of that!  (Kathy Walker et al (‘Communication Basics’LEADS Curriculum Notebook unit 11, module 2-1Kansas State University 2002.)

On the next page are some basic examples of when and where you may need to communicate with your ex partner along with some tips on how to communicate effectively. 

Face to face. Inevitably if you have children involved in your divorce you will more likely than not have to face your ex partner on a regular basis. This can be both daunting and stressful for both parties, including the children. Try and avoid getting into arguing, particularly in front of the kids. If you need to talk about drop off and pick up times consider texting each other first thereby reducing face to face conversation to a minimum. If you are able to talk without arguing then all credit to you. Practice or rehearse what you have to say in advance and try and anticipate potential flashpoints in your meetings. 

Telephone. The chances are that you will also have to communicate with your ex partner over the phone particularly over the kids pick up times etc… 

Again, rehearse what you want to say in advance and try to stick to the issues you need to communicate about. If you need to take a break from the conversation as you can feel yourself losing control just politely make your excuses and call back in a few minutes. 

Recognise and acknowledge the fact you are angry but at the same time start to practice the breathing exercises whilst you are communicating. Make sure you DON’T start name calling and using abusive language. If the conversation gets to this level, and it easily can, end the call and wait until you’ve both calmed down. 

Texting/email. Sometimes it is easier to communicate via text messaging or email. This allows you time to consider what message it is you need to convey and you have the added advantage of being able to change your message prior to sending it. Remember not to engage in text wars and never send abusive texts that can be saved and that you’ll end up regretting you sent. 

Family/friends.Your relationship with your ex may have broken down to the point where you have to communicate via family and or friends. Sometimes it’s beneficial to talk to a family member who can act as mediator between you both. This is not always possible as family members can get drawn into taking sides. In an effort to avoid this always treat family members with respect and try not to speak about your ex in a derogatory manner.   

Look at the behaviour sheet below and identify the behaviour caused by your feelings or your responses to ex partner’s behaviour. Be as honest as possible. Feel free to write these down on a blank sheet of paper, and reflect on each.