Are you having difficulty communicating with your spouse or ex?
Michael Albee Attorney - Family Law and Mediation
Do you effectively communicate with your Husband or Wife? Do you have difficulty discussing important issues with your children? If you are divorced or were never married, how do you talk to your co-parent about decisions regarding your kids’ medical well-being or whether they will attend school in-person or online this upcoming school year?
If you have ever experienced challenges communicating competently, I’m here to help.
Effective communication is the key to success in any relationship or desire. As you may have noticed in my previous articles, I’m a big fan of simple. I’m a steak and potatoes kind of guy. At the end of the day, “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” The perfect personification of a need for effective communication is found at a window we’ve all likely sat in front of during our lives – the drive thru window.
Last week, in preparation for writing this article, I wanted to test my theory on effective communication. Primarily, in my practice and life, I see too many conversations go awry due to people not asking specifically for what they want. So, instead of just writing about my theory. I tested it. I drove to my local Starbucks, where I frequent daily, and included myself in the excessively long line. After about an hour and a half, I finally made it to the drive thru window where I was prepared to order. The muffled voice of the overly caffeinated and excited barista said, “Welcome to Starbucks! How may I help you?!” Instead of ordering my usual large (I refuse to use their term) black coffee, I told you I’m a simple guy, I just sat there in my car without saying a word.
I sat there for a full minute, as the line behind me got longer and longer, before the woman said, “Please pull around to the 2nd window so we can help you!” Unsurprisingly, her tone wasn’t as chipper as it was before. When I pulled up to the 2nd window the same woman said, “Sir, could you hear me okay? What would you like to drink?” Again, instead of ordering my coffee, which I desperately wanted, I simply sat in my car staring ahead. I didn’t say a word, I didn’t make eye contact, and I didn’t even smile. Eventually, after about 30 seconds, she yelled, “Sir! If you aren’t going to order anything, I need you to move so I can help other customers!!” She was pissed and I didn’t say a word. I quietly moved my right foot from the brake pedal to the gas pedal and went on my way.
A few things happened during that straightforward exchange. First, I had a desire, a need that I desperately wanted fulfilled. I wanted my morning jolt of java and due to my inability to communicate effectively, telling the barista what I wanted, I left sans caffeine and upset. Second, the barista, who shared a common goal with me to fill my capillaries with caffeine, was left pissed off and upset due to my inability to simply ask for what I wanted and order my delicious demitasse. Third, and most importantly, other people, the thousands of people waiting in line, also suffered as a result of my inability to directly ask for what I wanted.
Does that sound familiar? Are there instances when you have something important you want to say to your spouse, co-parent or children but the words don’t naturally flow out? If so, here are some helpful tips for communicating effectively and asking for what you want.
1. You Probably Share Common Interests and Goals.
If you are trying to parent your children, you absolutely share a common goal – your children’s best interests. Often when communicating desires and wants regarding your children, it is easy to get lost in the trees and start to argue for what you want, rather than what is best for them. Similarly, when you read or improvised your vows however many years ago, you and your partner came to an agreement that you would love and adore them in sickness and in health. Health includes mental health. One of the goals in a marriage should include making sure that your spouse is happy and healthy. That means if they have an issue or want (like the coffee) they should be able to communicate it clearly with a common goal that both of you are happy and healthy.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
If your spouse or children are struggling it probably has a lot more to do with them than you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to pick my teenage daughter up from school only to have her get in the car with a sour puss attitude. Sometimes, rarely, I’ll react negatively and let it affect me. Most of the time, I realized that her issues, her struggle from the day, has nothing to do with me. As a result, I can calmly, patiently, and sometimes begrudgingly, wait for her to finish her rampage before I respond rather than negatively react. Almost always, the conversation ends with her apologizing for being rude and I’m able to help her troubleshoot her day and the myriad of issues that face a 13-year-old girl.
3. Tomorrow is a New Day.
It may seem like every conversation is integral to avoiding the apocalypse, but I promise that’s not usually the case. Sometimes it’s important to let cooler heads prevail and table an important discussion until everyone can carry out a calm, cool, collected conversation. And, if your spouse, co-parent or child must be heard that day without hesitation, then listen to what they have to say. Emphatically and actively hear them, repeat back the issues they are having and let them know that you need a day to properly compress and understand what they need and desire.
If you are having difficulty communicating with a spouse, co-parent or child, please do not hesitate to contact us for more beneficial advice.
Call (480)565-8020 to schedule your family law or mediation consultation with Michael Albee Attorney from Citadel Law Firm, PLLC. Mr. Albee offers free divorce consultation to help you understand if he is the right attorney for you.