Let me tell you about a client who thought she needed to “defend” herself and set the record straight in the email wars between her and her ex. Reems of emails back and forth that went in front of a judge when she attempted to get a protective order. Guess what? The judge could not figure out who the problem litigant was. She had diluted his ridiculous commentary with her own “truthful” commentary. A classic case of she said/he said that only served to confuse the judge and result in no protective order being granted. Costly both financially and emotionally, and unsuccessful because she did not acquire this simple skill.
I cannot emphasize how critical strategic communication is when divorcing a high-conflict personality. Acquiring the skill of strategic communication will keep you safe physically and litigiously. This may be the second most important skill required to navigate a high-conflict divorce. (The first is the skill of hiring the right counsel).
The guiding principles of strategic communication
- only respond to questions about logistics about the children
- wait to calm the f*ck down before you respond
Step away from the attack
It is so tempting to get sucked into the commentary full of personal attacks and false accusations. The human reaction is to defend oneself when under attack. I am suggesting you do the opposite.
The skills required to march in the opposite direction of what your prehistoric brain wants you to do is the difference between amping up the conflict and dialling down the temperature. It is the difference between exposing your kids to a hostile ex on Christmas and them experiencing peace with Dad. Most importantly, it is the difference between tens of thousands in legal fees.
Does this mean acquiesce to unreasonable demands? No. Does this mean walking on eggshells? No. It means highlighting only the specific questions about the children and only answering those in the most succinct, business-like way.
You do not need to correct the false commentary
Defence is the first act of war. The opposite of being defensive is being open to all of it. All of the criticism, accusations, whatever. Bring it. Tell me more. I have no need to try to convince you otherwise. That attitude is MONEY!
Think you need to convince your ex of the truth? Here’s the truth – s/he knows! Your ex already knows the truth but is just playing dirty to keep you spinning. So stop spinning and hone this skill. Sound impossible? It isn’t when you learn how. And it is this precise skill that separates the winners from the losers in divorce.