Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Civility

One of the hallmarks of divorce conflict is insufficient civility.  Everyday, angry ex’ send contentious, nasty emails and texts that they later regret or that come back to haunt them.  Even worse, divorcing spouses post diatribes on social media platforms for their ex and everyone to see.  The intent is clearly mean spirited: to cause hurt and embarrassment.  But who is really hurt?  The target of the diatribe?  Or the writer, now perceived as vindictive and immature? And if spouses are trying to negotiate a divorce through an online service, such as Negotiated Divorce, how do such communications help them reach their goal?

Some learn not to send or post such angry commentary in the heat of the moment; better to delete it and try again or sleep on it before hitting the send button.  In fact, the next day you might have calmed down enough that the email you didn’t send will embarrass you for having written it. 

But many people haven’t learned this rule of thumb or, if they know it, are too angry in the moment to follow it.  Their reflective system is overwhelmed by the impulse to lash out.

Here are some tips to help you self-monitor  your communications:

Internet and text communications being what they are, consider anything you send as public information.

·         It’s probably never a good idea to fire off an angry email in the middle of the night when you are tired and cranky. Sending it may help you sleep with a feeling of satisfaction,  but the results could lead to many sleepless nights thereafter.

·         Is it ever a good idea to draft and send an email written under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Of course not.  In such a condition,  one’s reflective state is impaired.

·         Use civil language and keep emails brief.  The more you write, the more likely it is that you will add something snippety and unnecessary.  With some editing, you can usually say what is important in 75 words or less.

·         Ask yourself:  “How would I feel if I was asked to read this out loud in a public setting:  Confident?  Embarrassed?”

·         Think of someone whom you admire for their maturity and wisdom. Ask yourself: “What would this person think about what I have written?” Or, “How would this person convey the same concerns?”

·         Don’t use offensive language or phrasing and don’t type words in caps or bold face; no one likes to be yelled at, it’s unseemly to be a yeller.

·         If you are reacting to another party’s communication, consider the NR response: the Not Responding response.  Sometimes not responding is the most powerful communication of all.

·         Bring in a third party:  Send your email to a trusted friend or family member for editing before you send it to the intended recipient.  

You should also consider a technical solution.  ToneCheck is an email filter that monitors the emotional tone of a message, much like spell-check, and gives you a chance to edit your words before you hit send.  The program is based upon the ratings of thousands of testers who judged the emotional charge of different words and phrases.  If the content of an email has too many negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, the program presents a warning and gives you a chance to revise.  ToneCheck was released by Lymbix for Microsoft Outlook and is working on versions for gmail and Lotus notes.     

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