Separation, Parenting, and Communication
Communication is the source of focused determination to make things work. If you have no communication, you have nothing to resolve issues with. In every separation or parenting mediation that I do, it is seldom to see civil communication between individuals. Some individuals say nothing, and others say way too much that sets off an even greater fire. The process of mediation is to help those to develop rules of engagement, ways to communicate so that civility outweighs the anger of emotionally charged individuals. Not everything needs a book of information and arguments, not everything needs a response. Use the 25 words or less rule and you will think before you speak, and you can control your tone. The way we communicate creates conflict. I know, I have heard and read it when in mediation.
There are characteristics of conflict that include the following:
Incomplete communication - one of the parties to the conflict did not hear the whole story, or didn't read the whole story as written.
Inaccurate information - one of the parties to the conflict had the wrong information or intentionally sent the wrong information.
Stress Overload - one of the parties to the dispute was confused, overloaded, or stressed.
Different viewpoints - the parties to the dispute see things differently; the parties may have different beliefs or values.
Limited resources - Neither party can have it all because there is not enough to go around.
Now communication can be resolved. Sometimes it means going into family counseling to learn how to communicate, especially for those where their communication is doing damage to the children. Communication and the words used creates a tension and stress in children, you may not see it because you are so focused on winning an argument. Or your just too stubborn to look at the damage you are doing. You want to be right; you think your way is the right way. Instead of looking at other options, such as counseling, you choose to go in your own direction not realizing that your actions are creating a greater damage. These types of people are very dangerous to the children in the family because they come second. Children should always be the priority even if it means you giving something up.
When communicating with the other party, do not over complicate it. Simplify and be clear on what you need to know. Say exactly what you need to know, do not add so much to it. Be simple and clear. Remember, we are practicing the 25 word or less rule. Keep it simple with the question or request and those responding - provide the information back with the 25 word or less rule. Questions and requests do not need to be books.
The other issue is that facts rule. When having a discussion stick to the facts of the issue, do not go back into the past and start bringing that up again. As a mediator I do not need to know the history, I want to focus on the issue at hand and how we can resolve them. And, drum roll, so should you. Keep to the facts of the current issue. You cannot change history no matter how many times you tell the story. Going back creates anger alive. Too many words make a mess, less words keep you focused on results. Easy?
When you are writing an email or text, or if you are using an app to communicate with, design a template for yourself to use. Use it every time you communicate. Let's look at an example:
TEXT OR COMMUNICATION TEXTS OR APPS (25 words or less rule)
Text or Email: Can you give me a dates of when you need Bobby watched?
Receiver Response: June 22 - 25.
Sender: Ok, I confirm those date, Bobby will be at my home on those dates.
SERIOUS ISSUES VIA EMAIL__________________________________
Date: Feb 16, 2021
Goal of Email: To learn more about the behavior issue at school and what needs to be done.
Issue: I am concerned that Jack was punished at school for his behavior in the classroom with the teacher. It is so very important that we address this issue together. I understand that you responded to the school.
Follow Up Requested: Please let me know what happened at school. Also please agree to keep me in the loop in the future. Through our communication app is fine.
I have reviewed the above before sending and have made every earnest effort to remove anything that could be considered a naked or veiled insult or unnecessary commentary.
Disclaimer: No offense or insult was intended, either overtly, covertly, consciously or unconsciously, by any of the above.
The shorter the communication the better, the more defined communication on important issues, and the tension will be less. The more you read the angrier you become. Write short messages, get to the point, and move on. It should take just a few moments of your time. If it is taking long, then you did not follow the 25 words or less rule and decided to go with a book that no one wants to read. Short and to the point gets to result and you can move on with your day.
Got it? Do it! If you need help on mediation communication conflict, let me know. Separation, divorce, parenting plans, all work only with good communication. 25 words or less rule.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.