by Kim Johnson
Learn to Effectively Communicate with your Ex
There are many difficulties to navigate in the divorce process. One of them is communicating your truth in a way that is respectful and honest. When we need to confront someone or something in our life, we often use words which focus on the other person. This can put them on the defensive, ultimately creating unnecessary hostility. One way to mitigate this is to use “I” statements.
A Useful Tool
“I” statements are a useful tool as they help keep the emphasis on you rather than allowing the conversation to become accusatory and negative. They are not intended to be passive or used as a way to avoid the truth. Instead, they will work as a diffuser to keep you from arguing and to keep the other person from becoming argumentative.
“You” statements vs “I” statements
You’re always late.
You don’t care about our kids.
You embarrassed me in front of the kids.
I have a hard time waiting when you’re late.
When you don’t call, the kids feel abandoned.
I felt humiliated when I was criticized in front of the kids.
Examples of “I” Statements
- I feel all alone in making decisions for the kids.
- My concern is for a place to live.
- I want to get on with things.
- When I’m yelled at, I feel angry.
- When I’m left to do everything, I get frustrated.
- I feel unappreciated when [fill in the blank].
- I’m concerned when [fill in the blank].
- I get worried when I see [fill in the blank].
Good Communicating Includes Good Listening
- Use your own words and repeat what was said back to the person to confirm you hear correctly.
- Don’t interrupt – listen as you wish to be heard.
- Keep your focus on the person speaking, don’t let your attention slip. Be aware of verbal and non-verbal ways you show your emotions.
- Examples of confirming statements:
>“What I hear is ___” >“So I think you are saying ____” >“I understand you feel ____”
More Tips for Using “I” Statements
- “I” statements open the dialogue. They are not the solution so keep your expectations realistic.
- Understand that an “I” statement is no guarantee the other person will respond positively.
- Don’t disguise “you” statements by saying, “I feel that you__” or “I get angry when you __.” This may have a negative impact on what you are trying to say.
- Don’t use the words that or like – “I feel like.” It may be interpreted as an opinion rather than true feelings. Follow “I feel” with descriptive words like sad or hurt or scared to communicate clearly.
- Balance your words with your feelings. Don’t minimize as your truth may be weakened.
- Use words to express anger wisely. Immediately starting with “I’m angry” can cause instant defensiveness and may impact your ability to convey your feelings well.
- Be short but be specific and clear.
Communicating in the midst of a divorce or with an ex spouse can be extremely difficult. When we place the focus on ourselves rather than on the other person, it allows the other person the space to hear what we are truly trying to convey. They can listen to hear rather than listen to refute or become defensive about what we are saying. Good communication is key in navigating a graceful divorce.