Has anyone hear about 'miscuing'? People miscue one another every-day; mediators are no exception. I did it this morning with my 8 years' old son. He really didn't want to go to school. I think I displayed super human levels of patience and understanding for about 2 hours! Then my patience ran dry as we were late and I was seriously frustrated. My tone changed and I got angry.
I told him to hurry up and that his behaviour was terrible. It escalated and he was crying and refusing to move and I was now shouting. If I had hoped that this would be more successful than my previous cajoling then I was very much mistaken. He was more adamant than ever that he wasn't going to school and I couldn't make him. I was determined he was! We were in deadlock. As he's eight I was able to frog march him to the car, but felt awful as he was sobbing. I couldn't calm him down and he went into school upset. Strong arm tactics won't work at all between adults and weren't very effective for me with my son either.
My cajoling didn't work with my son, but losing my temper made the situation a million times worse. What did I expect? My son could not see I was upset or angry and stop and rationalise his fears about school, he was far too agitated himself. So sadly I triggered the wrong response and set myself up for failure: this is what miscuing really is.
I have another personal example I sometimes give clients. My husband used to 'forget' to take the bins out every week- a job I struggled with as they are really heavy. For months I'd nag him to do it and he'd invariably forget and I'd be angry. Nothing changed. I decided to take my own advice and improve our communication. Using sentences starting with "I feel" rather than "you... never take the bins out..." I told him how I felt. I told him the bins were too heavy for me to carry, I invariably dropped rubbish out of them and made a mess and I was often running late as our youngest is struggling with school etc.
He nodded and said ok. The next day he did it. I acknowledged his effort and thanked him when I got home. He then apologised and said he genuinely used to forget to take the bins out as he leaves very early and didn't realise how much it would help me if he did it. He's never forgotten them since. I thought he had heard all the reasons I needed his help and just didn't care. However, the way I had asked him meant he just couldn't hear me properly; he just heard my criticism and anger. So, the saying, "it's not what you ask, but how you ask", really resonates with me.
I often hear clients miscuing one another in mediation, especially when the topics they are discussing are very emotive and important to them. And it's proven that when people separate their emotions can be as powerful as those experienced during a bereavement. It's so hard to remain calm and logical; especially if you feel your ex is standing in the way of you seeing your children, or is hurting them or preventing you from moving on. Miscuing can make you feel you can't win whatever you say your ex will always hear it wrongly.
However, you can control how you communicate with your ex, and you can also control your response. You can also phrase things in such a way that your ex is more likely to find them acceptable. Always be polite and avoid personal attacks. Try smiling. No, I'm not kidding! One couple told me how awful hand over was at contact time. The wife said the husband scowled and tried to intimidate her.
The husband said the wife hated him so much she wouldn't look at him and treated him with contempt. I broke the encounters down. I asked what was the first thing they each saw? The wife said she didn't even look - she knew her ex would be staring at her and trying to make her feel bad. The husband said he saw her looking the other way and it made him angry she didn't even think he was worth looking at. They were both miscuing one another.
I suggested next time they made eye contact and said 'Hello'. They needed to let their son know they could be civil. That genuinely was the start of them understanding each other better and being able to co-parent their son. They needed to put themselves in the other person's shoes and they both persevered because they loved their son. He was so much happier and felt more secure when they were getting along. They realised they each loved their son far more than they disliked one another.
Mediation is not an easy option. It can feel uncomfortable. However, mediation helps improve communication and reduces the frequency of ex-partners misunderstanding one another. It gives children what they need and want the most; parents who can and do put them first.