You Gotta Learn How to Stop Telling People More than They Need to Know...
This post is really for those people getting a divorce. But it just might apply to others as well. I am an oversharer. I say way too much about everything. I am wordy and do not seem to have an appropriate filter. But I learned...and if I can, so can you.
Women seem to have a harder time with this than men. And I think that is largely due to us being the communicators. We are taught at a young age to build relationships. That is our responsibility and purpose. Our role in relationships is to listen but to also talk. To hear the things people are saying and also what they are not. And then to respond with lots of words.
I have told people for years, most especially at a deposition or other meeting with the opposing side, to think about your purpose in being there. If it is a deposition, you are there to answer questions. That is all. You are not there to build or repair a relationship. You are there to answer questions, so talking is really pointless. Communication is NOT the point.
And so often I have felt that in divorce, people do way too much talking and not of the right kind. We talk to exchange information. We talk to convey things we want known. But there is a time and a place for this and it is often not the time in divorce but nobody really knows that.
I can’t tell you how many divorces I have seen blow up because one person decides to start talking to the other side and then there is that fateful moment where something is said, heard (maybe not even correctly) and the whole case goes completely sideways.
One of the first pieces of advice I have for people separating is to clear the communication pathways. Stop talking all the time and start writing. Written communication has its own pitfalls and perils, but people tend to be more thoughtful and judicious about their written communications whereas people who are just running their mouths say all kinds of stuff that comes back to haunt them later.
I am not advising you to lie or distort reality. I am just saying that in a divorce case, you do not know how it is going to go. I have seen really amicable cases go berserker. And I really don’t want that for anyone. There is a lot of room in most cases for settlement and healing. But the best way to assure that your case is this type of case and not the other dreaded awfulness, please, keep your thoughts to yourself.
If you can stop the jabber jawing, you have time to run your thoughts, feelings and ideas past your divorce coach and your attorney. And then you are doing a much better job at effective communication that serves everyone.
There are people who can sit down and talk it out. My own divorce was one of those. But I had 20 years of experience being a divorce attorney at the time of my own divorce. So I knew what to do and what not to do. And I knew from the very beginning that my spouse was going to look after himself, and I needed to do the same.
In all divorces cases, there are hard feelings, pain, disappointment, anger, doubt. And the more you allow your mouth to sound off without putting some very important controls in place, the worse it will likely go.
Divorce has a path. All of them are hard, rocky and challenging. All of them. The difference is in the magnitude of the hard, rocky and challenging. It can be a blip on a screen or WWIII. And so very much of the magnitude control has to do with how, why and what you are communicating.
A few easy tips:
Why are you talking?
Is there a question pending? If not, then why are you talking? If information needs to be exchanges, what is the best way to do that?
What are you saying?
Is it helpful? Honest? True? Needed? Have you run it by your counsel or coach?
When are you communicating?
I think noon is the best time for any communication between divorcing spouses. Not early in the morning, not late at night and not after work. If you need to actually have a conversation, meet for lunch or discuss over lunch. The time crunch works in your favor causing you to be brief, succinct and goal oriented in your communications efforts. You also tend to be at your most level thinking mid day. Not still waking up and not drained by the events of the day. And never, and I do mean never, try to have a conversation with someone while trying to help the kids with homework, or making dinner, or after you or the other person have been drinking.
Who are you talking to?
Is this really a conversation to be had with your STBX (soon to be ex)? Should you talk with your coach or attorney or therapist first? Can this person hear you? Do they want to? What has the communication been like in the past? If all of the above elicit a cringe from you then perhaps it is better to NOT have the conversation you are just dying to have.
In divorce, words are weapons. And they do damage. Some are tiny bombs, others grenades and still others nuclear missiles intended to level the landscape of your life. The best way I have seen to defend against this type of relational warfare, is to not engage in it. And if you are the recipient, go tactical with people who know how to fight fire with fire. Allow their experience to guide you, because this may be your first divorce but it isn’t theirs. They have seen it all, twice. Allow expertise and acumen to be your guide, not emotional shrapnel.
In divorce, knowledge is power. And when you learn to stop telling people more than they need to know, you, your children, your family and your bank account benefit.