Appropriately Assertive




*the following is a repost from 11-23-11


Are you assertive or do you come on like a freight train?  There is a way to get your point across without offending the other person.  It is a challenge in situations of divorce.  In divorce conflicts, the subject in dispute is usually a very emotional one.  If it involves your children, it is common to have strong reactions.  In moments of panic, you may say or do something that you otherwise wouldn’t.  When the dispute is with an ex spouse, you won’t have the same response as you would if you and a friend had a dispute. 

People tend to react too quickly and not think everything through when something unexpected comes up during a legal negotiation.  This will bite you right in the butt.  Whenever possible, you have to hold the knee jerk reactions at bay.  These are negotiations that you want to stop and think about.  The hard part is that the legal system moves very slowly, while at the same time affords time sensitive matters that must be dealt with under pressure.  Even so, you will fair better if you can take a short period of time to think, rather than overreact.

If you are someone who has been a people pleaser, you might wind up agreeing to things that are not in your bests interests or that aren’t going to work long term, but you felt pressured to go along.  You will need to work on being assertive and do away with the people pleasing if you want to put divorce behind you.  I have heard it said that divorcing women go from go along to get along to bitch before they come back around to the appropriate level of assertiveness.  Men can go from no communication to scary angry control freak before they come back down to the appropriate level of assertiveness.  It is something many people go through.  If you are in the bitch or control freak phase, you will be hurting yourself the most.  Try to bring it back to less intensity.  The way to get through these battles is to come in from a position of strength.  You can’t do this very easily if you are in a rage.


Here are some things to try:


1. If you have a request, make it calmly and be fair about it.


2. If you get a response that upsets you, pause before you interact again.


3. Talk to a friend, coach, therapist or your attorney before you react harshly.


4. Run the exchange by someone else before you respond to your ex, their attorney or court authority.


5. If you don’t have to respond quickly, mull it over for a day.  Sometimes a request from the other party sounds like a bad idea to you, but after you have time to think, it isn’t too bad.


6. Use few words.  If your ex wants to exchange parenting time, for example, simply say no.  Don’t say NO! BECAUSE X,Y, Z.


7. Keep an open mind.  When you get an email or phone message from the ex, don’t assume it’s going to upset you,  hear what they have to say before deciding you don’t like it.


8.  Stay respectful, even if you disagree.  This one is tough.  Even if your ex isn’t often respectful to you, you will get farther by not attacking them and it helps you show good will if the dispute has to be decided by a court authority later on.


9.  If you are the one making a request, get all of your wants up front.  If the request needs more details, spell out or suggest as much as you can about each piece of it.


10.  Make offers that should not be refused.  For example, if you want an additional child visitation for a special event, tell your ex that you have an event you want to take the children to.  Offer to do anything that you know could be a problem that makes your ex say no.  Offer to do all the driving and things like that.  If you take responsibility for every aspect of that visitation, your ex has fewer reasons to say no.


Your ex may still say no, even if you have been appropriately assertive and taken responsibility for everything that might get in the way of a yes.  Offer to pick up and drop off the kids, mention that you will pay, you’ll make sure they get their homework done, etc.  Anything you can think of that makes it sound unreasonable if they say no, do it.


Don’t play the winners and losers game in court.  There really are no winners in divorce court.  You may feel like you won or l
ost, but divorce does not go on forever, even if you have children.  Children become adults and make their own choices at that point.  Ex’s find other things to fill up their life and unless the relationship is a codependent one or some other highly dysfunctional one, people usually will lose interest in their ex, especially in doing battle with their ex.



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