How you conduct yourself in meetings demonstrates what your children have to deal with.
- Stay out of the past – We want to avert future problems, not assign blame for past problems.
- Focus on the parent relationship (i.e., the children) not the ex-partner relationship.
- Bring difficult issues / problems to the meeting so that we can resolve them. Disagreements are OK and are expected – how they are expressed determines their usefulness. Don’t trash the other parent for doing the same or s/he will stop, and then the problems can not be corrected.
- If it’s important to one parent, it’s important (whether you agree or not).
- Hunt for areas of agreement that can be shared with the children.
- Arguing accomplishes nothing and is a waste of everyone’s time.
Manage Your Behavior
- Don’t respond to inappropriate behavior – (i.e., by defending yourself, making counter-accusations, ‘clarifying’ details, or characterizing the other parent). If you respond, there are two unreasonable people in the room, neither one of which can be heard.
- Don’t stop or correct the other parent (if you do, I don’t have a chance to see their thought process).
- Don’t monopolize meetings – Let the other parent say whatever is on his/her mind.
Use Good Communication Skills
- Speak slowly and calmly.
- Don’t interrupt. Let the other parent speak.
- Avoid critical language – Judgmental, accusatory, sarcastic, pejorative remarks are inflammatory, distracting, and a waste of meeting time.
- Use “I” statements (not “you” statements). Say how you feel rather than characterizing the other parent’s behavior.
- Don’t accuse – instead, ask.
- Avoid superlatives, e.g., “always”, “never”, etc.
- Stay on topic – i.e., stick to the issue, no “kitchen sink.”
- Don’t characterize or speak for the other person or attribute thoughts or emotions to him/her.
- Present interests (not positions).
- Maintain eye contact with the other parent (speak TO him/her; LISTEN to him/her).