George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright, famously asserted, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. In the context of co-parenting, this problem is further complicated by strong emotions and the circumstances of the separation. Once an easy task before the breakdown of the relationship, communicating with a co-parent can become particularly difficult and onerous after separation.
This is often dependent on whether each party is in an emotionally different place to one another. For example, the party initiating the separation, may have felt distressed prior to the actual separation and somewhat relieved once it occurs. Conversely, for the other party, they may be in denial and shock as they begin their emotional experience of grief and loss.
Whilst the support of good legal representation and a skilled family lawyer can often reduce the need to communicate regularly with your co-parent whilst proceedings are ongoing, there may still be topics requiring discussion, for purposes of co-parenting children.
In order to mitigate conflict in these circumstances, Bill Eddy, author and co-founder of the High Conflict Institute, recommends that co-parents use a BIFF response model: Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. This consists of:
(B) Brief – keep your response, noting this will minimize the chance of antagonistic exchanges;
(I) Informative – keeping it child focused and to “just the facts”
(F) Friendly – responding in a friendly manner will increase your chances of getting neutral response in return.
(F) Firm – In a non-threatening manner, state your position with firmness.
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