Ten top tips for assertiveness during divorce proceedings

A divorce or separation can be very difficult and challenging for most people. Being assertive will help you approach divorce with a positive attitude that can help create an environment where all parties get their needs met. It is not about aggression or revenge but about the way we communicate and our ability to stand up for ourselves and say how we feel when we need to.

The following 10 tips will help you to remain assertive and behave in a way that is effective, respectful and beneficial to yourself and others:


1. Expressing your opinions and feelings

Do so in a clear way whilst at the same time asking the other person what they think and feel. Your opinions count and your feelings are important. If you find yourself becoming angry, aggressive or despondent you have the option to stop the conversation and continue at a later date.

2. Be clear

About what you want whilst considering the needs and wants of the other party. This includes stating your position and priorities and listening to the other person's position and priorities. Put yourself in their shoes!

3. Take your time

Spend time thinking about positive outcomes for you both and be open to the other person’s opinions and thoughts on this. Try to be accepting of the situation as it is.

4. Say 'no' without feeling guilty

Do not allow yourself to be pressured or bulldozed into agreeing on things or making decisions until you are ready to do so. If necessary ask for more time. Remember you have the law on your side and you have the right and choice to contact a lawyer if you feel you are getting out of your depth and need specialist professional help in this regard.

5. Talk at the same level

Body language communicates over 50% of the message. Give eye-to-eye contact and keep movement to a minimum. Avoid finger-pointing or moving into the personal space of others which will only raise defences and antagonise.

6. Breathe deeply and calmly

If you feel stressed and under pressure take a long deep breath. When you feel calmer you will be able to see things more clearly and when you respond your voice tone will convey a more assertive message. Try slowing down your speech. Raised voices will automatically put the other person in a defensive position ready to fight their corner.

7. Think before you react

It is not always helpful to respond immediately to a situation. Take some time to assess the situation before you give your response. Time will allow you to take an overview of events rather than making snap responses or decisions under pressure.

8. See the bigger picture

You can choose not to assert yourselves at times when it would be better not to say anything (i.e. is there any point in being critical or petty over small things). Think about how you would like things to be five years from now! Calm or conflict? Your choice! Start the process now.

9. Mind your language

Use language that defuses rather than escalates a situation. Language like: “you should” “you did” “you must” “you can’t” can be seen as accusing, patronising or bossy and will be likely to cause the other person to react defensively.

 Assertiveness statements might be:

  • “I appreciate your point of view... and this is what I think about it.”
  • “These are my thoughts on access arrangements, what are yours?”

Non-assertiveness statements might be:

  • “Some people think that is not a good idea to go to court.” - Avoids giving your own opinion.
  • “Don’t you think we should divide everything 50:50.” - Again, this hints at what you might be thinking but do not say outright.

Be strong and clear in verbalising your thoughts.

10. Support yourself with positive thoughts

Give yourself strong messages about who you are and what you stand for rather than being afraid of what people may think of you, or being critical of what you think others are doing to you.

For example, tell yourself the following:

  • I am a strong person
  • I am a good parent
  • I am capable
  • I am supportive of those around me (including the other party)
  • I want the best for everyone
  • I make mistakes sometimes like all other human beings
  • I forgive myself for the past

If you fail to assert yourself you may not get your needs met – you will probably go through situations again and again in your mind, regretting things said, beating yourself up, telling yourself “If only I’d said this or done that”

It is your right to be assertive.

This article was written by Andrea Harrn - Psychotherapist and Creator of The Mood Cards.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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