Okay, so you’re blessed to have an ex-partner who loves words (or the sound of their own voice).
They write you essays, monologues, five times a day.
Once they were love letters that you admired. Their ability to put words together, to form pictures and stories amazed you.
Now it’s pages and pages of dribble, or attacks, or questions or accusations or arguments about why something should be how they want it to be.
And you want it to STOP.
You’ve still got things to decide upon, agreements to reach, but you can’t read another wad of words from them. You need it to be succinct, clear and not rambling, and you need it to only involve the topic at hand. NO MORE TANGENTS. Dragging up the past, rewriting the past, hammering home how badly you’ve treated them, all the horrible things you’ve done.
You just want to know if you can pick up the kids at 4 pm instead of 3 pm. Why all the WORDS?!
Ever heard this line before – It’s me, it’s not you.
Well in this case – it IS THEM. It’s TOTALLY about THEM!!
The best thing you can do is cut through the diatribe of nonsense and answer just the issues at hand. There’s a nifty little formula you can follow that will give you the exact way to format the email or text.
Remember those English exams you use to have to do at High School? Where you needed to highlight the information that was relevant and ignore everything else? THIS is what they were preparing you for. Not work documents!? Divorce. Your year 12 English was preparing you for divorce!
Read the email precisely twice. Once to get the gist of it, and the second time is only for highlighting the things that MUST be replied to. With practice, you can whittle this down to one cursory glance or skim read.
If you’ve read much of this fantastic co-parenting blog, you’ll hear these words a bit – DO NOT get fooled into defending yourself. You don’t have to explain why you think what you do or why you’ve done something that is within your responsibility to do. Just answer the questions that NEED a response.
If you’ve been asked why you let your 4yo watch the latest Batman movie – move on. If it’s “how many times did the kids eat McDonalds last weekend?”, Fly right over it. If it’s “what time are you collecting the children this weekend you unreliable, always late, purposefully destroying my life piece of rubbish?”, you reply: “I will collect the children at 4 pm on Saturday.” You don’t point out that it’s the same time each week, and you’ve been doing it at the same time each week for 13 weeks now. You don’t point out that you’re always on time, and they’re always the one who forgets a belonging or makes you sit and wait every. Single. Time. You don’t. You just say: “I will collect the children at 4 pm on Saturday.”.
Get it? There’s this principle in advertising – KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid.
Keep it so simple that it’s stupid. Stupid Simple. Polite. But simple. Give them too many words and they’ll just find words to write back (in all honesty they’re going to write back anyway, but fewer words beget fewer words over time).
So, if you’re dealing with an over-communicator, DO NOT entirely disengage or the five emails will become 15 and then you’ll have them knocking on your door wanting to know why you haven’t replied to the 22 emails they sent this morning.
Oh, and do it in a timely manner. Don’t make them wait. Do that, and you’ll know the discomfort of ‘torment by words’. They will build on their argument and add to it and embellish and tell you the same thing four different ways in 7 different emails if you wait too long to reply.
Just reply when you receive it. Follow the formula. Walk away until the next one. Oh, and good luck!