Why Assertive Communication Is Essential To Co-Parenting With A Narcissist
Tired of biting your tongue, or worse fighting, and getting nowhere with your controlling co-parent?
Being assertive may not come naturally to you, if you grew up in a home where problems were thrown under the rug or your parents were unable to meet your basic needs. The fundamentals and protective mechanisms you learned in your childhood home can carry out in your adult life and determine how you handle conflict.
Today, you may find yourself emotionally reacting to charged statements or simply avoiding communication with your ex-partner all together. And, when you stay silent or aggressively explode at your co-parent, you end up neglecting your children’s well-being. It’s no longer becomes about co-parenting, but about winning a co-parenting power struggle.
Your children deserve a voice. You are their voice.
Using an assertive communication style within your co-parenting relationship supports the ability to communicate in an open, honest, concise and constructive manner. You are logical, solution-focused, and keep communication strictly about the children’s needs.
On the contrary, passive or aggressive styles of communication typically exacerbate situations. Passive communication keeps you silent or beating around the bush on the issue, whereas aggressive communication creates confrontation through perceived power or control over the co-parent. Neither of these styles of communication give you a win-win outcome.
Assertive communication is the solution to being an effective co-parent.
Here Are 4 Steps To Using Assertive Communication With Your Co-Parent:
1. Use Logic Versus Emotion
Speaking with assertiveness shows you are confident in a conversation. Your words hold meaningful weight while focusing on the facts of the scenario.
Using the three 3Cs of communication will be your most effective tool:
Calm tone of voice
Constructive language towards a mutual outcome
Often, individuals who communicate from a place of emotion struggle to understand why their message isn't being received well. This usually happens because a co-parent reacts with emotion flooding the other person through lengthy, long-winded messages that can overwhelm the other parent and shut down the conversation altogether.
Additionally, you or your co-parent may only see the situation from your perspective using a ME mindset. This results in attacking the other party or ignoring their valuable contribution. Ultimately, this triggers the other party to pull away or attack back using criticism and heightened conflict.
Everyone is responsible for the self management of their own emotions. Self-care and self-love are vital to your co-parenting relationship and taking ownership of your emotions so they aren’t displaced onto a relationship.
Tip: Facts over attacks
2. Honor A We Mindset When Co-Parenting
Not much can be resolved if you are only willing to see your perspective. Assertive individuals not only voice their concerns, but they also have effective listening skills. This is known as relationship intelligence. The more you ask questions, listen and find understanding in their position the better off you are in finding a WE mindset solution to the problem.
Having an open mindset gives you the ability to see outside of yourself and focus on the children. While you may truly believe in your point of view, the other person may have a valid perspective as well. Assertive communicators are able to see both sides and work towards finding common ground by bridging the gap between both sides.
Tip: WE mindset is the key to working together.
3. Focus On Solution, Not The Problem
Assertive individuals don’t have a problem expressing their thoughts even if it leads to creating conflict. However, they also know how to resolve conflict as quickly as it started. Their intentions are not to cause harm or create tension, but to simply share and find resolution.
Focusing on the solution requires effective negotiation skills and empathy. An assertive person knows the value of the other person’s position and tries to create alignment with theirs. They don’t try to convince the other party of their thoughts but simply find common ground. They look to be fair in resolving the disconnect.
When presenting solutions to a narcissistic co-parent, it’s best to give two solutions that work in your favor. This allows the outcome to benefit you, but also makes your co-parent feel like they have the final word, since this is usually part of their motive - to be in control. Either solution they choose should benefit the well-being of the children and co-parenting relationship.
Tip: Look for the “win-win”
4. Know your boundaries
Those who know their value aren’t afraid to say “NO”. While assertive people typically know their limits, communicating with an aggressive or passive individual can be challenging. A passive individual may resort to the silent treatment whereas an aggressive person will try to overpower you. Utilizing boundaries allows you to remain respectful, communicate from logic, and seek to create better alignment.
Boundaries are meant to shut down disrespectful behavior and elevate the connection from a place of value.
For example, you may say:
“When I’m being verbally attacked it makes it hard to co-parent. I value respectful communication. How can we work on this?”
“When I’m being ignored it makes it hard to coordinate drop-off times. I value open communication. How can we reach a resolution so our children are taken care of?”
Tip: Boundaries are your lifeline.
How do you know if you lack assertive communication skills?
Do you shy away from discord?
Do you feel anxious expressing your thoughts?
Do you struggle to find resolutions?
Do you find it difficult to converse respectfully?
Do you struggle to stand up for your children?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you will benefit greatly from learning how to communicate from an assertive communication style.