3.10 Communication Pitfalls

You’ve now learned some ways you can be a good communicator but it’s also important to know how to avoid being a bad one. Communication pitfalls are ways of talking which do not advance the conversation and in fact, make things worse. Because speaking with your former spouse can be emotional it’s easy to get caught by one of the pitfalls.

    Common Pitfalls




“It’s all your fault. We’re here because of you.”


“That’s ridiculous. It makes no sense.”


“You are being very selfish.”


“You don’t really want the kids. You just want to get even with me.”


“Either you do it this way or I walk.”

Cutting off

“Tell your lawyer to call my lawyer”


“You’re such a jerk”


Ways to avoid the Pitfalls

  • Familiarize. Be familiar with the pitfalls ahead of time. Knowing what not to do will help you avoid doing it.
  • Take a time out. It’s okay to pause and refocus the conversation. Decide to focus on the issue and not on your former spouse’s behaviour.
  • Stop, Acknowledge, and Apologize. If you fall into a communication pitfall stop, acknowledge and apologize. It’s not too late to recover and get back on track. Move forward by refocusing the conversation on the issues.
  • Express. If you find yourself on the receiving end of these behaviours let them know what is happening for you and what you need to continue the conversation.

Mediator’s Tip:

Remember that this is a difficult situation for both of you, and you both might make mistakes in communicating with each other.

For example: “When you say I am being ridiculous, I feel hurt and angry and I can’t keep talking to you. If you want us to have a conversation about this I need you to stop saying that.” Using “I” statements is a great away to avoid communication pitfalls.

You can probably think of a time when you or your former spouse has falling into one of these pitfalls. You may even have a tendency to fall into the same one.  When you think of communication pitfalls imagine falling into a real pit, it’s dark, difficult to hear, and hard to get out of.  You’re not likely to have a good conversation with someone who is outside of the pit.