Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

3.18 - Communication Tips

3.18 - Communication Tips

As you saw in scenario one, there are many strategies that can reduce conflict around communicating about extra and unexpected expenses.  We are going to review communication tips again because they are important to consider when speaking with your former partner.

Gather all the financial information and any other details that will be important to share. The initiator should do their homework before approaching the other parent. Plan for positive communications.

Decide HOW you want to communicate. Which method will be most effective to communicate this particular financial request?  For example: phone, email, letter, text, or in person. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Allow enough lead time for your former partnerto consider the information before having to give an answer. Where possible, contact should be done in a timely manner to allow the other person time to digest the request.

Involve your former partner when making financial decisions. Initial communication should be to provide information and invite consultation.

If you have children, stay focused on your children’s needs. The request should be child-focused; for example,  “Johnny is really excited about being selected for the all-star baseball team and it would be a really good experience for him to be able to go to the ournament with his team.” vs. “I need $200 to send Johnny to the baseball tournament this weekend.”

Ask your former partner to get back to you by a specified day or time. Invite feedback within an appropriate deadline.; for example, “Could you get back to me by next Wednesday so that I can let the coach know at the next practice?” versus “I need to know as soon as possible,” or “What is there to think about – yes or no?”

Listen to each other without interrupting.

Offer possible solutions and be open to other solutions. Offer to discuss possible financial solutions; for example, treat the expense as an extraordinary expense and share it proportionately to your income, or share the expense equally.

Clarify who will be paying for what and when. Clarify the details of the payment – how much, when, and how.

Follow up the discussion with a summary in writing outlining the plan so that both of you have the same information and can track expenses.

Discuss and decide what is to be shared with your child and how you plan to do that. If you decide you cannot afford the expense you should discuss what information would be shared with the child, how, and when.,

Build on your successes. It can take time to be able to practice positive communications and establish a business-like relationship. Remember to think about lessons learned and to plan for good exchanges.

When negotiating on the phone or in person there are other considerations for a successful negotiation:

  • Use a neutral tone of voice and be aware of your body language.
  • Know your “triggers” and those of the other person.
  • Give the other person an opportunity to speak.
  • Listen.
  • Resist the urge to interrupt.
  • If emotions run high, take a break.
  • Don’t take the outcome of the discussion personally.

In the next section, you will have the chance to practice some of these communication strategies. There is an activity called: What would you say?