Do you feel like you spend too much time, and have anxiety about divorce communications? If you do, you’re in good company.
When you’re separating or going through divorce, it might feel like every word you write or say could be used against you. Maybe given the amount of emotion involved, you’d rather not communicate at all, but there are things that require you to (like your divorce case, your kids, or untangling your finances).
Has something like this ever happened to you?
You wake up determined to have a good day. You get up early, exercise, and your kids even get dressed without you reminding them 10 times. As you’re getting ready to get in the car, a text from your ex pops up on your phone. You immediately feel your blood pressure go up.
You stop what you’re doing and respond. But it’s not over. Before you can get your seatbelt on, your phone’s dinging again. Now you’re sitting in the garage, texting back and forth with your ex. You’re late and agitated.
By the time you drop your kids at school and get to work, you’re unnerved. It affects your whole morning, and truth be told, half your day.
These kinds of situations happen to almost everyone. And even if you have a decent relationship with your ex, have you ever gotten an email from him and you just didn’t know how to respond?
Communicating in stressful situations like divorce doesn’t come naturally. And poor communication can be hurting you in more ways than you know. For starters, it increases your anxiety, and causes you to waste hours a day worrying about what to say. It can even harm the outcome of your divorce case. Friend, we don’t want any of that for you!
What if you feel you’re trying your best but your spouse is_______________ (fill in the blank: controlling, a narcissist, disrespectful, etc.). Even with a difficult person on the other end, communicating can be made a little easier if you have the right tools to use. A little easier, so that you have more control over your time and your day. A little easier, so that you can communicate more calmly, no matter how the person on the other end of the conversation is behaving. A little easier, so that you can communicate without worry that what you say might harm you later.
The #1 thing that gets in the way of effective divorce communications is emotion.
Divorce is a stressful time. You’re probably juggling a ton and your fuel tank is on empty. When you’re emotionally spent, it’s easy to say something you don’t mean or that you probably shouldn’t have said even if you did mean it. 🤐🤐🤐
There’s nothing wrong with feeling our emotions. It’s what makes us human! But when our emotions take over our communications, that’s when things get derailed. Often we end up in a back-and-forth argument that leaves us feeling worse, not better. And sometimes we say things in a way that doesn’t make us look good. Which can matter a lot, like if you’re trying to negotiate a divorce settlement, or in the middle of a custody case, or just want to come across well to whomever is paying attention (the mediator, the judge, your inner critic).
If you feel your emotions are getting the best of you, try using the 3 S Rule:
1. Step away
The more upset, angry or frustrated you feel, the more you need to step away. Put down your phone. Walk away from your computer. Force yourself to do something that will take your mind off it, like walk around your block, call your best friend (to talk about something else), or hug your dog.
Unless it’s truly an emergency, whatever you need to say can wait until you’re in a better frame of mind. And the person you’re communicating with can wait too.
Someone else’s urgency does not create your emergency.
No matter how urgent the other person thinks it is - that doesn’t mean you have to let it be. Especially when an urgent response could mean saying something you shouldn’t. So when in doubt, wait it out.
2. Stick to the facts
Facts are people, places, and things. Facts can usually be proven. Opinions on the other hand, are only our judgment about what the facts mean.
Let’s say your ex was 45 minutes late today to pick up the kids. You had dinner plans and now you’re late so you’re irritated.
The facts are: he was supposed to be there at 6. He arrived at 6:45. You are late for your own dinner which started at 6:30.
Your feelings about how irresponsible and inconsiderate he is? Those are opinions. Leave them out of your communication (by expressing to him only what you know you can prove) and you’ll be much more persuasive. Because facts can’t be denied. You might even get an apology!
3. Shorten your words
When it comes to what we say, especially in stressful situations, less is usually more. It’s more impactful and stronger. Shortening our words also helps us stick to the facts.
A good trick is to write down whatever you want to say without editing yourself. Then go back and read it and try to take out any words that aren’t absolutely needed to make your points.
You’ll probably lose a lot of words that are hostile or apologetic (which is another thing we women do too much of).
When I’m asked to do this, sometimes I’ve taken paragraphs written by my clients, crossed them out entirely, and suggested they replace them with a one word answer - like “yes” or “no.”
Use the 3 S Rule to communicate more calmly, more powerfully, and more persuasively.
You don’t have to spend a lot of extra time learning this. In fact, using this trick will save you time, because when you communicate in a factual, shorter, powerful way, you teach the other person how you’re willing to engage with them. Try it a few times and see what I mean.
Some women are worried that if they don’t respond to every insult or offense, they’ll come off as weak or that they’ll let him “get away with it.” The opposite is actually true! After reading thousands of conversations, I can tell you the ones that make the biggest impact are usually the shortest and most to the point.
If you can remember the 3 S rule, you’ll be able to communicate more calmly, more powerfully, and more persuasively. Which means less stress in your day, and more time to focus on the things that matter to you.
Want access to actual words you can use to get through the most common divorce communications? We’ve developed a new, digital product that can help you do just that! Divorce Scripts gives you the tools you need to get through over 40 common divorce communications. Now you can know just what to say to your ex, your friends, employers, kids’ teachers, and more.