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Mastering Assertive Communication For Coparenting: Strategies to Shutdown Manipulation

shutown manipulation

For coparents dealing with a high-conflict coparent, effective communication is paramount in ensuring a healthy environment for both you and your children. Assertive communication becomes a crucial skill in the face of manipulation attempts. Let’s explore specific strategies for navigating manipulative situations and reducing conflict over interactions with a high-conflict coparent.

5 Assertive Communication Techniques to Shutdown Manipulation:

1. Broken Record:

When communicating with a high-conflict co-parent, the broken record technique involves calmly and consistently reiterating your main points or boundaries. This unwavering repetition communicates your firm stance and reinforces the importance of your message. By confidently holding your ground, you create a barrier against your coparent attempting to minimize the importance of decisions or imploding more manipulation tactics. 

2. Strategic Redirect:

When met with resistance or attempts to derail the conversation, strategically redirecting the discussion is highly effective for coparents. You may say something like “It looks like we got off track here. I know we both value (x). Can we decide between (x) or (x)?” By guiding the conversation back to a point where there is a higher likelihood of agreement, you can steer interactions in a direction that aligns with the best interests of your children. Also, by giving them two options to choose from they are more likely to choose one so they believe they made the final decision even though you gave them two choices that both worked for you to choose between. 

3. Curiosity Challenge:

Engage the high-conflict co-parent with curiosity by posing discovery questions that seek to understand their perspective. This approach makes them feel heard and valued, creating an environment conducive to finding common ground. Genuinely exploring their viewpoint disarms manipulation attempts and increases the likelihood of reaching resolutions that benefit the children.

Examples of Discovery Questions: 

  • What activities did you have in mind to sign the kids up for? 

  • How come the kids can’t take their toys back and forth between homes?

  • How would you like to resolve all the clothes ending up at one home? 

  • Who can we agree on that can pick up the kids from school?

  • What timeline would you like to establish before introducing the kids to a new partner?

4. Agreement Framing:

Emphasizing points of agreement is a powerful technique for coparents to set a positive tone during negotiations and shutdown manipulation. Acknowledge and highlight areas where you both are on the same page before addressing contentious issues. This establishes a cooperative atmosphere, fostering collaborative problem-solving. Agreement framing encourages compromise and helps build a foundation for finding common solutions that prioritize the well-being of your children.

shutdown manipulation

5. Timing Matters:

The timing of communication is crucial for communicating with a high-conflict co-parent. Choosing the right moment to discuss decision-making, ensuring your coparent is in a receptive and open-minded state increases your chances of reducing conflict. If you know they are overwhelmed at certain times or are moody when they get home from work, then it may not be the best time to send a message. While we cannot tiptoe around the mood of others, we can strategize three steps ahead and increase the chance of them being more agreeable when they are in a calmer mood. 

Assertive communication is an indispensable technique for coparents navigating high-conflict situations. Tailoring these strategic techniques to the unique challenges of coparenting with a narcissist can empower you to assert boundaries, maintain control, and foster a healthier coparenting dynamic. With consistent practice, coparents can navigate manipulative situations with confidence, prioritizing the well-being of their children.


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