Category Archives: Marriage

08 Jul

9 Tools for Healthy Communication

1. Communicate directly with the person.

First make sure the situation has something to do with you directly. Decide if the situation is really worth your time and energy. Then go directly to the source, and try not mentioning things to others or posting comments on social media. Be respectful by being direct. Example: “I understand that you are angry with me, can you tell me why?” Or, “I heard that you are the manager for the new department and I would like to talk with you about possible upcoming positions”.

2. Start with a genuine compliment or positive statement.

Research shows that starting a conversation with a compliment or positive comment increases receptiveness in others. “Thank you for taking time to speak with me”. Or, “I know you were very angry last night and I appreciate your willingness to talk with me today”. With a child, it might sound like: “I really like how you calmed yourself down, good job”.

3. State your needs in a clear honest way.

Clarify in your mind exactly what you are asking for and why. Communicate that in a non-defensive tone. Research shows that too many words can confuse the listener. Try to state it 2-3 sentences. For example: “I wanted to talk with you about the fight at the table last night with your brother”. Vs. “I wanted to talk to you about that terrible tantrum you had at the table last night in front of our family, when you were acting like a 3 year old and picking on your brother”. Another example might be: “I would like to talk to you about the promotion. I understand I was not a candidate and would like to know why?” Vs. “I heard so-and-so got the promotion and I was so bummed to hear that because I thought I was a better candidate”.

4. Use “I” statements.

“I feel”, “I need”, “I want”. “I” statements are about you and no one can question your feelings or needs. It also outlines the place you are coming from. Then state your need. “I felt disappointed about the fight at Christmas dinner. I really wanted everyone to get along”. Or “I would like to apply for the promotion and would like to know what I need to do”. Stay out of their backyard and away from blaming. It puts people off and makes it harder for them to hear what you want. Focus on what you would like to see happen. “I would like to advance my position and use more of my skills to help this company increase it’s sales”. Or, “I would like for us to have family meals without fighting and am wondering what you think we could do together to make that happen?”

5. Listen.

Yes, to their response. Often we have a script already running in our head about what they will say or what we need to say next. Turn that off. Make your statement, pause, take a breath and listen for their response. Be in the moment as much as possible. And let go of outcome. We can’t control others or the outcome, even if it’s with the best intentions.

6. Ask questions to clarify.

Coming into the conversation without a singular result in mind will allow for exploration and curiosity. Ask questions with an engaged curiosity. Seek to understand the other person’s perspective, their experience and their opinion.

7. Try phrasing it in a different way.

If the person does not understand what is being said, try phrasing, literally using different words. For example” “I feel like we haven’t spent any time together” (They don’t understand). Second try: I really like you and would like to spend more time together, what do you think about that?” If you are on the receiving end of communication and don’t understand what they are saying, ask for clarification. Ask for specifics. “ Can you give me an example of a time when I talked over you?”

8. Take a break if things start to get heated.

You can take a break anytime, especially if you know the next line of defense is going to be slinging hurtful insults you won’t be able to take back. Revisit it when you are both calm and level headed. Check-in with yourself to see if you missed something or maybe could try to say things in a different way. And if things can’t get resolved, try mediation or communicating through someone else, like a counselor.

9. Apologize and reconcile when possible.

They are healing acts that help move relationships forward. Some people think that apologizing is sign of weakness but it’s actually a sign of respect towards the self and others. We are after all human and fallible. Admitting that actually takes courage and emotional maturity. Some say that reconciliation and forgiveness are the most important parts of the communication process.

Resources and References


The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns

How to talk to anyone; 92 little tricks for big success in relationships by Leil Lowndes

When Anger Hurts, Quieting the Storm Within, by Matthew McKay, Ph.D., Peter D. Rogers and Judith McKay

Articles & Blog Posts:

Counseling Advice: Healthy Communication & Relationships by Amy McNamara, LMFT,

The 7 Cs of Communication: A Checklist for Clear Communication on

Tips for Better Communication on

5 Habits of Highly Effective Communicators by Susan Tardanico,

14 Very Effective Communication Skills on

10 Effective Communication Habits of the Most Successful People, by Marcel Schwantes,

6 Surprising Ways to Communicate Better With Your Partner by F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W.,

Simple, Powerful Tools for Becoming a Great Communicator on


20 Jun

3 Important Ways to Help Yourself Through A Divorce


It’s going to come up in conversation. Take the opportunity to create healthy boundaries from the start. Preparing for these conversations can help manage the emotions that might come with it and prepare you for the responses of others. Other’s often have strong opinions about divorce with unsolicited advice to go with it. And it’s not always helpful or positive stuff.

First, decide who needs to know. As life changing an event as it might be, some people (like co-workers) may not need to know. It’s good to ask: who you would like to tell and why?

Second, decide what kind of impression you want to leave with that person you’re going to talk to. It sounds self-centered, but it’s actually fact. It takes 7 seconds to make an impression, so decide what you want that other person to remember. Facts people won’t necessarily remember, but how a person made them feel is something that will stay. Experts recommend saving the personal emotions and intimate details for those closest, a therapist or a journal. It might not matter if it’s a best friend or family member, because they’ve already seen you at your best and your worst. But if, for example, you decide to tell your boss, what do you want him/her to remember, the facts and how well you are handling it, or how upset you were about the whole thing?

Third, ask for you what you need. The process of divorcing can be stressful. It’s an important life change and people often want to help but don’t necessarily know how. Communicate what is needed, whether it’s just hanging out for a change of pace, or getting added support for the children. Don’t be afraid to at least ask.

For more information about creating healthy boundaries, check out this article: This Is What It Really Means To Have Healthy Boundaries by Kelly Coffey on


 The act of divorce isn’t exactly a positive self-esteem building experience. This process could easily hit hard. It often brings up questions of confidence and how we see ourselves. It can leave someone feeling bad, like they failed at something. Or they might become riddled with guilt, especially when they see how it is impacting their children. But not to worry, divorce is much more common now a days. And kids are very resilient. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun, but what is does mean is that the person asking about it probably has either been through it or knows someone who went through something similar. And research shows that the 3 years following a divorce is the most impactful time for children to heal and recover, so don’t give up hope!

Staying in the present moment and looking to the possibilities in the future is a great way move everyone forward and keep the mind clear and emotions out of the drama.  Set a goal in the future for yourself. Practice positive self-talk daily, especially positive affirmations. It might be thoughts like “I am taking action and making necessary changes in my life right now to better myself”. Or, “I am managing each situation as it comes up”. Sometimes, it’s “This is stressful and I am handling this really well!” Or it might be “this is tough right now, but it will pass, I am strong and resilient and can get through this!”

Check out the blog post Meditation Made Easy or present, in-the-moment exercises article.

Dr Pamela Blair talks about Recovering Your Self-Esteem in this article about self-esteem building.

And here on find out more Steps to improve self-esteem.


Traditionally, separation is when there is the highest level of anger and potential violence between partners. Unmanaged anger comes in many shapes and forms including words and actions, or a lack thereof. It usually presents as passive (implied, indirect or insinuated to create or maintain conflict) or aggressive (directly threatening or physically hostile). And it can be VERY destructive.  For example, when a parent or partner posts negative comments about their ex on Facebook. Or someone sends out an insult in a group text. Or a parent makes negative comments directly to the kids or another adult in ear shot range of the children. Actions like these reflect poor boundaries. Children pick up on this and it often makes them feel conflicted. Blaming is a common destructive pattern also. It’s good to remember that as intense as those emotions are in that moment, they will pass. And once something is said, it’s out there and can’t be taken back. Ongoing negative comments, blaming and criticism can have long-term negative psychological effects on everyone, especially children. They actually do not rebound as easily from this kind of behavior. Blaming and negative criticism are also polarizing for others who often feel conflicted between their loyalties and what they should do. And then it becomes one more thing that needs to be resolved. The same goes for threats to others or acts of physical violence. They can have far more serious long-term effects.  Practicing this from an emotional intelligence perspective means managing the emotions before they take over.

The best way to manage anger is to develop awareness around it and learn specific techniques to help manage the emotions. Steps like:

  1. Identify the comments or actions of others that lead to feelings of anger or rage. Take note of the person or situations that create strong feelings, like fear or feelings of powerlessness. Notice how angry you get and how you respond. Then take not how long it took to calm down.
  2. Use strategies to calm yourself down before the anger turns into regretful words or actions. A “trigger” might be discussing a certain topic with an ex-partner or seeing repeated behavior that is perceived as threatening. Once this happens, take action to manage the anger. This could be the act of stopping the conversation in that moment and taking a break for a few minutes to get a handle on the intense feelings.
  3. Revisit the conversation when everyone is calm and level headed.
  4. Try an anger Journal: An anger journal is a great way to start creating that awareness. Questions include recording how many times a person gets angry in a day, what happened leading up to a change in emotions, and recording how the person responded when the anger took over.
  5. Utilize techniques even after the anger hits. Breathing techniques area common way address things immediately. (check out or try an app on your phone). And time-outs are great ways to handle “in-the-moment” emotions. So is exercise. It’s ok to put a stop to what ever is escalating and switch gears for a bit. Meditation and yoga are great practices to incorporate, especially before a stressful meeting. Studies show that people think more logically and make better decisions when their minds and bodies are in a resting state, not a raging state. Breathing exercises are the fastest and easiest way to calm down. Too much anger becomes self-defeating. Avoid mean or threatening language or physical violence. They are psychologically very harmful to children. Practicing positive self-talk, is another tool that helps decrease anger. Learning to stay calm and express emotions in a healthy way is a great way to model emotions for children and decrease unnecessary stress. If it becomes an ongoing problem, talking to a specialist, like a counselor or psychiatrist can be very beneficial.

A note about exercise:  a good amount of cardio exercise can change the balance of serotonin, endorphins and other hormones to help balance the mind and body.  Like the mind, the body can be changed too. This is one area many people utilize.

References and Resources:

Books –

From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life, A Woman’s Journey Through Divorce by Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC.

Something Gained: 7 Shifts to be Stronger, Smarter and Happier after a Divorce, by Deb Purdy.

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Blog Posts –

How to Tell Others You’re Getting Divorced from

Divorce Etiquette 101: What to Say from

Tips on Communicating With Your Spouse During a Divorce from

Facing a Tough Divorce Transition? Create Positive Moments from

Working it out from

Types of Anger from

4 Tips for Effective Communication During Divorce from

5 Ways for Better Communication During a Divorce from

Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper from

The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature from


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