In going through separation and divorce, co-parenting and mediation, there are some very straightforward things you can do to improve communication. Try these:
Listener Job Description
- Listen to what the Talker is saying. Pretend you are a tape recorder. Ideally they are talking about a vulnerable feeling and you are making it safe for them to connect with you.
- Listen without judgment, rebuttal or any other editorial comment.
- Contain your emotions, this is not about you right now, it is about the Talker.
- If the Talker is being destructive or if you simply cannot listen, ask for a short time out. The person calling the time out assumes responsibility for re-engaging the conversation within 24 hours.
- Paraphrase what you heard them say, being as objective as possible. Do not put your spin on what they are saying- you are only trying to understand their perspective.
- Ask them, “Is that accurate or close? Do you think I got it?”
- If you have really understood them, and they agree- Ask them, “Is there more?”
- If there is more, keep listening.
- If they are saying something that is hard to hear, or they are really loud or if the manner in which they are saying it is objectionable (they are being mean/overly critical) you have the right to ask for a time out or to ask for what you need. For example, “It is really hard for me to hear you when your voice is that loud. Could you please lower your voice?” or “I struggle listening to you when I feel attacked or when I think you are mad at me. Can you get your point across differently?”
- Attempt to validate them after you have clarified. That means allowing them to have a different opinion (point of view or perspective ) than you have, acknowledging their perspective has merit and that you can see where they are coming from. This defuses many, many disagreements.
- As the talker, your job is to make sure you speak in short sentences and ask the listener to clarify what you said.
- After about 4 sentences, many listeners will tune you out. Stop and let them clarify what you said.
- If you want to be understood, speak in a manner that they can hear you.
- Speak respectfully.
- Try to keep to one and only one topic.
- No name calling, and avoid blame. This is not time to complain or punish them or show them their faults/criticize.
- It is time to connect.
- Tell them what you need from them.
- Avoid telling them what they need to change.
· Do not attempt to convince them that your way is right and theirs is wrong.