This article is from Carol Mapp, LCSW, an Arlington-based therapist with Integrated Healthworks.
Communication is central to any relationship and co-parenting communication and relationships are no different,. Keep guidelines in mind at your next impasse; they might help you avoid an unproductive argument.
1. Say it in a way that the other person can “hear”: There have always been and always will be difficult communication with others. We must not allow our other limited perceptions define other people. Impatience is often a by-product of ignorance. If you are about to snap back at someone who is testing your patience, remember your contempt may be caused by limited knowledge of his/her situation, If you make someone “pay” for being unpleasant, you are going to pay right along with him or her. Use one of the following phrases to keep communication flowing:
· Tell me about…” Maybe there is a situation you want to know more about. Maybe you need more information regarding something that was said. Often the most effective way to encourage others to talk respectfully is by utilizing a general, open-ended comment such as, “Tell me about this.” Then, depending on the response, you can decide how to follow up.
· Have you considered…. If you use words such as “you’re wrong,” you are guaranteed an argument, or at least a loud discussion. Nobody likes thinking they are wrong. Some people believe it is “my way or the highway”. This thinking can, certainly precede an argument.
· Would you mind… is a much better alternative I need you to … The listener’s first response, whether it’s vocal or not, might be “No, I don’t think you do”. Your listener might avoid doing what you need at all costs. There is an element of “I’m better, more important than you” or “you are my minion.”
2. Unblock communication by removing the “Can’t Because” log jam: The words “no” and “can’t because” are like verbal doors slamming in your face. These words create an adversarial relationship between you and the other person because he is not giving you what you want. If an individual asks you for something, remember that you can often work together to come to a possible solution. Rather than telling him or her, “I can’t help pick up the kids today” instead, you might say, “I can’t pick up the kids today but let’s think of who could.”
3. When someone complains, don’t explain: When another person complains, ask yourself if what he or she said is basically true. If it is, say these magic words: “You are right.” Many times, when there is a complaint, there might be a legitimate reason to be so. Instead of reliving what went wrong, acknowledge what he or she is saying and move on to what can be done about it. Explanations extend arguments, and agreeing can end them. In other words, apologize, then act.
4. Avoid extreme words: Refrain from using words, such as “always” and “never.” These words can trigger strong negative reactions. When these words are uttered, there are often passionate denials from the other person. Just state the facts so you can make your concern constructive and preserve your credibility. An imprecise put-down, such as, “You never feed the kids healthy meals,” is doubly inflammatory. It is one thing to say that the kids need to eat in a healthier manner, but this insult implies that the other person does not care about the kids’ health. Instead, pair a neutral request for information with a neutral question. You might say,“I know that the kids’ health is important to both of us. How can we work together to provide healthy meals?”
5. Speak to common interests. Keep the common goal and good in mind. Remember: if an argument turns nasty, nobody wins. Never let the discussion be about your needs or his or her needs. It should always be about your child’s needs.