Communicating with a high-conflict co-parent can be emotionally taxing and challenging. You may feel like it is a never ending cycle of conflict. However, effective communication strategies can significantly reduce tension and conflict even in this context. Here are five ways to rephrase or articulate issues with a high-conflict co-parent in order to foster better understanding and minimize conflict.
1. Focus on Facts & Objectivity
When addressing an issue with a high-conflict co-parent, focus on presenting factual information rather than personal accusations or emotions. For instance, instead of saying something like, "You seriously never stick to the visitation schedule," rephrase it as, "I noticed that there have been some deviations from the agreed-upon visitation schedule. Can we discuss how we can make it more consistent?" See how that lands better? When you make an accusatory remark that comes off in a negative way to your high-conflict coparent, even if it's true, they will automatically be on the defense. Being on the defense will trigger them into creating more conflict.
2. Use "I" Statements
Dorcy's favorite skill to keep in your communication toolbox! Communicate your concerns using "I" statements to express how the issue affects you personally without blaming or attacking the co-parent. For example, say, "I feel concerned when communication breaks down, and important decisions are made without discussion. Can we find a way to improve our communication for the benefit of our child, as well as the benefit of each other?"
3. Offer Solutions and Compromise
Instead of dwelling solely on the problem, suggest potential solutions or compromises. For instance, propose, "I understand our different parenting styles. Can we work together to find a middle ground that considers both our perspectives for the benefit of our child?"
4. Be Calm and Assertive
Maintain a calm and assertive tone during conversations, even if the co-parent becomes defensive or confrontational. Avoid escalating the situation by staying composed and focused on finding solutions. Responding with, "I appreciate your input, and I believe we can find common ground by discussing this issue calmly," can help diffuse tension. Or, simply a NRN (no response needed) may be what is best in the midst of a hostile message.
5. Set Clear Boundaries and Consequences
When addressing ongoing conflicts, set clear boundaries regarding acceptable behavior and the consequences of continued conflict. For example, communicate, "It's important for both of us to communicate respectfully. If the conversation becomes disrespectful or unproductive, I may need to step away and revisit this discussion at a later time." The minute you add something into like 'It's important for both of us to communicate respectfully, and you are not doing that.' OR 'I may need to step away and revisit this discussion at a later time since you are sending too long of messages' is the minute they are put on the defense, since you are indirectly degrading them. Leave out passive comments or accusations, and stick to the point.
Communication with a high-conflict co-parent can be challenging, but employing these communication strategies can help de-escalate conflicts and promote a more cooperative co-parenting relationship. Remember, the goal is not to change the co-parent, as that is not possible, but rather to create a healthier and more peaceful environment for the well-being of your child, which is possible. By using objective language, focusing on solutions, and maintaining a calm demeanor, you can navigate challenging situations more effectively and reduce conflict in co-parenting interactions. Check out our renowned Co-Parenting Class, that you can even get a certificate to use for court if needed. Receive $150 off this course for reading this blog! Use code BLOGCCP at the enrollment link.