I was taught that communication is an art. No matter what the masterpiece, be sure it effectively conveys your thoughts. Meanwhile, the artist has to be able to reciprocate and filter feedback. This takes time, patience, maturity & wisdom.
There was a time I spoke nagging and my son’s father spoke ding bat. I sought advice on what to do. I realized we had a child to raise “together”. My sister-in-law stepped in with practical steps to try. It wasn’t immediately effective. After some time, patience and maturity, we found a happy hue.
I recall a particular time in our co-parenting that every conversation resulted in an argument, yelling and/ or being hung up on by a slammed phone in mid conversation. My sister gave me a formula to try. The first time I tried it, it for sure did not work. I forgot all the rules and started yelling. My sons father had no idea what I was trying to do. I was putting in 100% of the effort and exploded. The second, third, fourth and fifth times, I tried to apply the rules again and realized, I had to tell him what I was attempting to do so that I wasn’t doing all the work. We began trying together and failed numerous times. One day it hit me, we were working on something together… and failing together. After some time, it became easier and now I am able to do it in my head without verbalizing every step. My amazing and patient sister-in-law advised me to use reflective listening. “Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker's idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly.”
Often times I would say something and he received it differently than what I actually meant or intended. There were also times that our sour feelings would prevent us from hearing each other’s point. With reflective listening, he would speak and I would follow up with, “So what you are saying is…”. I would reiterate what he said in my own words. Often times, this is where we found the communication mishap. Whenever I didn’t repeat his intention as he meant it, he would stop me to clarify & find a better way to express what he wanted to say. This went both ways until we better understood. The goal was not to agree, just to understand the other perspective. I had to work hardest at the reflective listening. It entailed constant repeating of thoughts until we were speaking the same language and expressing the same ideas for our son. It required us to convey our thoughts carefully and accurately. I had to learn, the way I said something is what he heard and not actually what I said all the time.
We had to find a starting point that we could agree upon. For us, it was our son. We both love him and want the best for him, period. That was our starting point for every conversation. Now, it goes without saying. We both know that we are coming to the table looking for the best outcome for him, not us. Secondly, we began an unspoken rule: If it’s not about our son, then it’s not a conversation. This allowed us to filter extra business or nonsense out of our talks and stay focused. Lastly, I was advised to treat our conversations like meetings. I would make an agenda/ list of the things we needed to discuss for our son prior to speaking with him. I made the list while I was in a calm/ cool-headed space & it would help to keep our conversations on track. This took years to be honest. Our verbal artistry was a mess. Once we stopped blame shifting and started putting in the work, we got better. Is it easy? NO. Does it get easier? YES! We did not stay together, BUT, we have one of the most amazing co-parenting relationships that I would not trade. Thanks to our family and friends who saw the importance of team work and a life for our son that required both parents to paint a masterpiece.
You can read and learn more about reflective listening:
‘The Lost Art of Listening’ Michael P. Nichols
‘Everyone Communicates, Few Connect’ John C. Maxwell
‘Active Listening’ Emilia Hardman
Woman to Connect with:
Fatima started FLM after her face was paralyzed during the summer of 2015. Spending much time in silence & looking at magazines, she realized that none of the images seemed to reflect moms that encouraged her, (in her current state). She began collaborating to find a formula for a magazine that would inspire fellow mom & womenprenuer camaraderie.
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