Lack of communication is a common contributor often cited in divorce. Even if the couple has good communication skills, there may be other significant reasons that caused the communication breakdown. Now that the couple has taken steps to end the marriage, it may be possible that the issues causing the communication problem are no longer relevant. Nevertheless, there may be some bad habits that the couple should try to change if they plan to coparent children or work together professionally.
THINK before speaking
This is an acronym that psychologists recommend to divorced couples for effective communication:
- Truth: Are your words truthful? The speaker should be clear whether they are sharing a face, opinion, feeling, or question.
- Helpful: Are the words helpful? Use your words constructively to repair or improve a situation.
- Inspiring: Are your words inspiring? Ideally, your comments should encourage the recipient to listen, respond or pay attention.
- Necessary: Are your words essential? Is it important to say what you say to coordinate or communicate?
- Kind: Is it Kind? The delivery should be respectful, non-judgmental, warm or even humorous.
Some useful guidelines
While THINK can help with the quality of communication between the couple, there are some helpful ground rules for brief, business-like, informational, and straightforward that also strengthen the post-marriage relationship:
- Texting: Use this for quick updates, such as “I’m running late” or “I just sent you Tommy’s soccer schedule.” It’s a good rule of thumb to respond within three hours.
- Voicemail: Use this for substantive communication that is not very time sensitive. Try to acknowledge the message within 12 hours.
- Email: Putting it in writing is great for formal requests, informational communication or coordinating plans off in the distance. Agreements acknowledged in the email are easy enough to refer back to as needed. Try to respond within 24 hours.
Making the best of it
Marriage and parenthood are a partnership. While the marriage ends, parenting is a role many carry on with until death. There may be times when the kids are younger or coordinating major family events where the parents are in regular contact. Using the THINK strategy can make the best of a complicated situation, reducing stress and generally improving the family’s ability to function as a unit.