Can Co-Parents Communicate When Trust is Broken?
written by: Attorney Jeremiah N. Ollennu
Direct communication prevents, and cures conflicting interpretations. We resolve disputes efficiently if we talk things over, especially when we disagree. But when we need to talk, we don’t. And when talking is unnecessary, we rant. The problem is most acute between separated parents, whose need to communicate affects the lives and well-being of children.
Co-parenting communication is not different from other types of interactions that occur in conflict. But the imperative to keep talking is unlike any other. We may walk away and choose never to directly communicate when we disagree in other situations, but we can’t do that as co-parents. Even when we desire to avoid each other, we cannot. This makes co-parenting communication unique. Because when we fail to communicate effectively as parents, the consequences from our failures ripple far to affect future generations connected to us.
One of the many challenges co-parents face after separating and/or divorcing is how to communicate. When a relationship brakes, trust is broken along the way. This creates frictions because trust and communication go hand in hand. They pair up, ironically, like brides and grooms. We can’t communicate effectively without trust, because language loses its meaning entirely when placed in a distrusting environment. Yet, somehow, we insist on influencing others by our communications, even when we don’t trust them, and they certainly don’t trust us.
Why don’t we trust each other? One answer to that question is that we are afraid of other people’s true intentions. We don’t understand them, and they don’t understand us. We’re thinking, talking and living in a confused world filled with fears, but many of these fears are only real to us, because we create them, in our individual and collective minds.
Thinking in fear, we produce fear. Our responses are fear driven, and they are followed by fearful symptoms. Anxieties, hatred, anger, belligerence, depression and poverty are our natural harvests when we sow in fear. We produce all manner of psychological and physiological sicknesses by our cultivated fears. Additionally, these sicknesses both manifest and intensify when we think in fear.
Fear also stems from re-living our past experiences, which in turn breaks down communication. We are afraid of our pasts, but we hold on to their wreckages. We don’t remember our good experiences, just the pain, which we re-create and impose on the present. We love to hate our pasts, and we seem lost without the horrors we conjure up as our memories of days best forgotten.
However, we can manage the situation, even if we can’t get over our trust deficits. We must focus on the value of the contents in our messages when interpersonal trust is a problem. We must mind the channels by which we engage. Keeping our communication channels open and cleared of emotional remains keeps us connected. With efficient messaging, connected people may side-step broken trusts, which takes a long time to repair. When trust is in short supply, we mustn’t waste any opportunity we’re given to persuade.
Effective communication involves sending messages through open channels, which when received, influence our intended responses. By this definition, we can also see how communication becomes ineffective. We must adopt communication styles that fit our trust-depleted co-parenting situations. The way we speak, our tone and gestures should all be reconstituted with the understanding that they are not meant for us. Rather, they should be intended to coax our reluctant audiences. We must speak our minds. Irrespective of the methods we choose, our meanings must be clearly received.
Whatever particular communication styles we adopt, we must work on them constantly and re-work them. Occasionally, we may have to discard them and start all over again. We should assume that our audiences have short attention spans by reason of our history. We should prepare for their moods to shift like the weather, and keep our umbrellas close. These are necessary measures when we are distrustful.
© Jeremiah N. Ollennu and www.ollennuandassociates.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jeremiah N. Ollennu and www.ollennuandassociates.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.