|Posted on June 10, 2015 at 8:15 PM|
June 3, 2015
Article: CAUTION: Don't Text While Divorcing
By Andrea Vacca
Related Subjects: Collaborative Law , Communication , Divorce Coaches , Divorce Law , Mediation , Mindfulness , Negotiation
CAUTION: Don't Text While DivorcingI was recently sitting at my desk when I received a text message from a phone number I didn't recognize. In rapid succession I received the following missives:
"I don't respect people who hit children."
"You belong in jail for the rest of your life!"
"Where you can hit a woman!"
"LMAO, who's not on parole!"
"How pathetic what a cheater you are too."
This person, who was obviously in distress around a family law matter and possibly even dealing with domestic violence, was exhibiting a habit I see often with my clients: Talking to a spouse or partner directly becomes so emotionally difficult, they start using text messages as their main source of communication. While it can feel easier or safer to express difficult feelings by text or email, separating and divorcing couples should use these methods of communication only if they are careful about what they are writing before hitting the send button.
When we communicate electronically, we lose the ability to hear and see voice tones, body language and facial expressions, which are all things that activate a region of the brain called the amygdala and which tell us whether we are safe or whether we need to fight or flee. When I see email or text exchanges between my divorcing clients, I'm usually struck by how something I consider a simple miscommunication can be interpreted by my client as a slight or some other type of threat. Oftentimes, the party in receipt of that "threatening" email reacts in a way that inflicts similar pain. And from that place of polarized conflict the two parties spiral into a vortex of even more contentious messages and misunderstood intentions. The good news is that there are ways to stop electronic conflicts from escalating.
Bill Eddy, who founded the High Conflict Institute, has developed what he calls the "BIFF Response" method of responding to electronic communications. He recommends being Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm:
Adopted from the High Conflict Institute:
If you're in the middle of divorce and using mediation or collaborative law, you are likely very conscious of the way you are communicating with your spouse in the presence of the mediator or lawyers as you work to move toward a resolution of your differences. By keeping the BIFF Response method in mind, your text and email exchanges can support all that hard work you're doing to achieve a divorce that is non-adversarial.
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