WATCH: Communication Styles to Avoid Escalations

Charles Fair, Calgary Lawyer and Tanis Moore, Canadian Centre for Men and Families,  join together to discuss different ways to effectively communicate and avoid escalations.

Watch: Communication Styles to Avoid Escalations

Calgary Men's Divorce Rights Lawyer Charles Fair 

Canada’s divorce and family laws are governed by federal and provincial laws. Family lawyers represent their clients in court and negotiate disputes between spouses and family members. Charles Fair has been practicing Divorce and Family Law for almost 30 years. Fair Legal handles all types of divorce, custody and family legal matters to protect your children, property and you. Contact us at 1 (403) 239-2249 to schedule a confidential meeting with a member of our legal team.

Give me a call and I can put my years of experience in divorce and family law to work for you. 


Thank you very much Vanessa. It's always a pleasure to help out with these webinars. The one thing I like about the Canadian Center for Men and Families is it's really supportive of men going through difficult times without being overly obnoxious about it. That's about it. I'm going to get myself in trouble, I'm sure for the way I say things. Anyway, so this is a good start to a seminar on communication. Bottom line is, I guess you don't have to be perfect in any event. I wanted to welcome also Tannis Moore here. This is great that she can participate. And there's her picture here if you need that one. I'm not sure why that -- Anyways, I'm going to, just as an introduction for the Evening, Escalation 2022 case in Alberta, Queens. It was up in Edmonton. And this is what the judge had to say about the father in this case. "His manner of communication and tone and many of his electronic messages with the mother can only be described as manipulative, controlling and argumentative." And here's a sample of one of the texts or emails that he sent to the mother in the case. And you can see that he was clearly frustrated. It looks like there were some allegations of violence, but at the end of this he says, "Because you are escalating and refusing to admit it, and refusing to change. "Unfortunately for this gentleman, he lost his case. And I think when you read the case, it becomes clear that his communication style played a huge part in the judge decision. And mom was allowed to move down to the other side of the continent in the States with their young child. So, I'm going to turn it over to Tannis and she'll talk about some of the underlying psychological stuff that gives you a different perspective on how to communicate. 

Alright, so the first thing that I thought would be really helpful to go over here is something called the drama triangle. And for those not familiar with the drama triangle, basically these are different ways of relating to other people that are likely to lead to some forms of drama in your relationship. So these are the styles of relating that we really want to avoid. So I thought we can kind of briefly, just kind of go over what each of these things look like and how they manifest in people's lives. And often times you might find yourself moving between different ones of these relationship styles, but so let's kind of just get into it. So at first we have the persecutor here. And so basically this can kind of be summarized as, "I am right, do what I say." So this is somebody who's very overbearing. They may be prone to yelling or showing anger. They may be very like, dominating or rigid in their communication styles. They tend to use fear and intimidation to try and get their way in others. So you think of it, you think of somebody with steam blowing out of their ears. So that is the one you really want to kind of avoid. Another one here is the rescuer. And you think, rescuer. You think, oh, but that's a good thing. But no, this is basically the kind of person who wants to solve all the other person's problems and control things for them. So, "You need my help, let me fix you. "It kind of creates feelings of being better than somebody else. So I know better than you. I can help solve your problems for you rather than solve problems with you. They tend to have strings attached in saving the other person. And they use feelings of indebtedness and superiority to get their way. And then finally, the last one is the victim in the drama triangle. And you guys might be familiar with this one because it's the kind of, "I'm helpless, please rescue me." kind of attitude. Somebody might put on this kind of facade of helplessness. They don't take accountability for their actions. It's really a lot of, "It's always your fault, it's never my fault." that kind of thing. So the victim will not take action and will rely on others to fix their problems. And then we can kind of move to the next slide and this other slide here is the winner's triangle. And this is basically more productive ways of relating to others and having those kind of communication patterns that are less likely to lead to drama and are more likely to create positive relationships with other people. So in the top corner here, we have the assertive, and it can also be called the advocates. But basically they address issues as they arise and refuse to let the resentment build. A lot of times in communications that really become negative. They've grown negative over along period of time, right. Because both parties have let that resentment build. So being the assertive advocate, they address those things quickly as they arise. So there's a lot of self-awareness. They act on behalf of themselves without harming others. So very much unlike the persecutor, they're advocating for themselves, but without being overwhelming to other people. They don't act in a punishing way and they say no when they're needed, but is willing to work with others. So there's a lot more collaboration there. And then the next one, instead of the rescuer kind of approach is instead the nurturing, caring, coach kind of role. And so basically that's somebody who's willing to teach concepts, but to show people, like you can do this for yourself. It's not trying to rescue them and save them and "I can do this for you. "It's, okay, well, here's how we can do things together. "And then last but not least, is the vulnerable creator role instead of the victim role. And so this is somebody who they take action to create the life that they want. They recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and they're willing to talk about that sort of thing, but without making it somebody else's problem, right. So they will assertively ask for help when needed and they're willing to take risks after looking at the consequences. So they have kind of an "I can" attitude rather than an "I can't" or "I won't" attitude. And so all of these people, all of these different roles on the winners triangle, these are much more effective ways of relating to others. 

And in a legal situation, just generally, they're going to be more likely to lead to positive outcomes. So we can move on to the next slide. So there are some other kinds of things to talk about with regard to regulating your emotions in various situations you might encounter. So a real focus on self-awareness is a big one. So, focus not necessarily on what the other person is doing, but more on yourself, on what you're doing. This is kind of something I like to refer to as an internal locus of control. So by going into meetings with people with a focus of "I am going to achieve X and we'll do Y" behavior instead of maybe for example, my ex is just out to get me, then you can hone in on things that you can do rather than focus on things that are out of your control. So that's a really big one. So the next one is like with controlling your emotions. It's kind of a similar sort of thing, right. So there are a couple of different ways that you might, there are some different strategies to controlling one's emotions. So one common one that it sounds trite, but it's actually really effective is to take deep breaths. So taking in a really deep breath and counting to five or ten before responding to something. So if you encounter something that causes a lot of stress then really taking time to actively separate your mind from the situation and take that deep breath. It requires like a direct commitment to a clear action rather than reacting in anger. So you're not just --action and by doing that you kind of separate yourself a little bit from the anger or whatever emotion you might be feeling in that moment. So it allows you to kind of keep that control of yourself and roll with what happens rather than losing yourself in the throw of anger. This breathing time can also be useful in taking time to frame another person's actions. So when we react in anger, we often jump to assuming the worst intentions of the other person, especially when they've said something hurtful or that has made us feel angry, right. So if we instead try and take the time to think about some other reasons why they may have said something, it may allow us to humanize them and therefore be less likely to lash out in anger and more likely to be willing to try to collaborate. So, yeah. And again, a really big important section of this is to focus, not on what the other person is doing, but on yourself. Because a lot of times, not just in this situation, but even in any kind of situation, if you think about it, you can't really predict what the people around you are going to be doing. So especially in a high conflict legal scenario, you can't predict what the other person is going to do, not with any amount of certainty. So if you're really sitting there focused on what they're going to do, then you're kind of at their mercy. You're not really in control of yourself. So that's why I say, if you have a specific plan about what you are going to do and the ways you're going to act and what your strategy is, then you can go into that meeting with much more control than you would otherwise have. Yeah, so basically, you can control how you're reacting to other people. I'm kind of jumping ahead of the script here, but you can control how you're reacting to other people. And controlling your reactions is so important because as Charles showed at the very beginning, that kind of communication style really looked like somebody who is, they're really reacting to what's going on around them. They're not in control of their own emotions. So when you have that kind of a situation, well, I mean, you saw what happens. That fellow unfortunately lost his case. They're not going to see you as somebody who's in control. And that's going to reflect badly on you in a court case. Into a case with a commitment to solving a problem. Then you can think about the scenario, not as you versus your ex or you versus whoever, whoever else it may be that you're in a legal situation with. You can think of it as the two of you working to solve a problem instead, right. So if you go into it thinking of it that way, then you can kind of separate yourself from the conflict that you may be having with the other individual and instead think, okay, so what is the problem that has brought us all here together? What are we coming here to solve? And automatically, by thinking of it that way, you can start to move yourself out of that combative role and into a problem-solving role that will allow you to feel as much as is feasible in many of these situations, more collaborative with the other person, right. 

Hey, Tannis, can I ask you a question? 

Yeah, please do. 

So, going back to these other slides here, let me just go all the way back here. This, on this drama triangle. If somebody is in one of these roles, are they stuck in that role? Or are they always in that role or do they move between these roles? 

Oh, no, they definitely move between those roles and sometimes they will do it deliberately as well. Somebody may move from the persecutor role into the victim role if they think that it's expedient for them in the situation. And some people are actually very good at it. And it's important not to hop on the triangle with them when they're doing that, right. Because a lot of the times if you have somebody behaving, say, in a victim role, it can be really easy to react with them in a negative way, right. 

Like the rescuer role or something like that. 

Yes, exactly. So trying to avoid that kind of thing and keep yourself on the winners triangle when somebody else is jumping on the drama triangle is a really key factor in keeping control over those scenarios. But yeah, it's very easy for somebody to be moving around on these things. In fact, quite common, I would say it's rare that somebody only sits themselves in one of these slots forever, right. 

So does that mean that you can switch to this role as well? Oh, yes. And this is something that I talk about a lot in my own experiences in therapy. It's, how can we move from these kinds of behaviours on the drama triangle? How can we kind of shift that into being on the winner's triangle and make your behaviour more effective in relating to the other person to make your relationship. 

Okay, excellent. I'm going to go through all these slides again. Great. Thank you for the help. 

So here's a, this is a real text I saw in a real case of mine a few years ago where a series of text messages showed up in an affidavit. You can see here, not quite the best kind of language here. You can kind of guess I was representing the guy who's writing with the white background and his partner was on the right, but she didn't really deal with this too well either. She says, I'm turning my phone off. And he says, well, do whatever you want, I don't care. Well, she didn't quite turn her phone off. And then he finishes off with a lovely apologize at the end of it. What I was able to do with this particular client is coach him on much better ways of texting. And he was actually, it was painful to him. He said, look, here's how you send a text dealing with something. And he'd type it into his phone and he'd sit there, we'd talk about it for five minutes before he finally pressed send. But then eventually, after about three exchanges, it deescalated the conflict and it started to make a huge difference in his case. 

So I wanted to just go through some basic communication tips and these are somewhat related to the drama triangle and the winners triangle that we've been talking about. And some of it is being clear on what it is that you want, what are your options. And this is important because sometimes what you might feel like doing is just getting back at the other person and you think, well, wait a second, is that really what I want? Or is it what I really want is a healthier co-parenting arrangement. What are the options for getting there? 

And so it's good to spend some time thinking about that. Another thing that's important, and this is partly how you shift, I think, from one of those triangles to the other, is create safety and clarify your purpose. So you want to make it safe for somebody to shift the role from whatever negative role they're in to something else. And this can be done in writing and in person. 

This one here is important. Understand you are responsible for your own actions and not the other's actions. This goes along with what Tannis was saying. You can't really predict what other people are going to do. You also can't control what they're going to do. We can only control our own actions. We can't control or what they're going to feel. You can't control any of that. But if you're responsible for your own actions, making sure that they are the right actions in the situation, and that you're responsible for your own happiness, and they're not responsible for your own happiness, then it's a nice way to start. 

Now, turning to some actual written communication tips. So, what I like to do is, I like this rule I came across a number of years ago called the three sentence rule. So when you're sending an email or a text, you've got to keep it really, really short, three sentences, maybe four, and I'll tell you where the fourth sentence might slide in. 

Okay, so first, number one, state your request in one simple statement. Like, "I would like to be able to pick up the kids a little bit earlier today", would be your simple statement. Well, if that just pops out of nowhere, or today or tomorrow, I mean you weren't thinking about when is it reasonable to put this request out there, but you'd say, "I'd like to pick up the kids a little earlier tomorrow." Well, the question is why? Then you provide any information that the other side would reasonably need in order to make a decision. And we'll get into a little bit more about this in detail. So you could say, "Well, because there's a special program that starts at 05:00, and if I pick the kids up at 05:00, we're going to miss that special program." And you don't need to say anything else. 

And then you say, state what you would like them to do. And this one is important. You would say something like, "Let me know if that would work, or if you have any concerns." This is really where you want to say, this is not the demand that you are saying, look, I demand that you let me pick up the kids earlier. This is, let me know what your response is. And you're inviting a discussion. One of the reasons why you want to do that is because it shouldn't matter to you what their response is. 

Because as we said, we can't control what they are going to do. They have a choice. They can either do the right thing, which is provided that they don't have some program that the kids are in, ending at five, that would require that. Again, you want to get that input from them and you want to get that reaction so you can have a discussion as they say. It doesn't matter what they, you can't control what they do. If they come back and say, well this is ridiculous that you would even think about asking them earlier, how outrageous is this behaviour? 

Well then you can use that against them potentially in court because that's not a healthy productive way of interacting. So here's some things to avoid and this is in particular in the second sentence, which is things they need to know, saying why it's important to you, because quite frankly, they probably don't care why it's important to you. 

Yes, it's important to you, but just set that aside, you don't need to express it to them because you may just be inviting them to attack. And this is where I think, say the victim role comes in, it's important to me. And you throw yourself under the bus and you're just inviting somebody to jump all over you. So it really isn't relevant why your request is important to you. Second big thing to avoid is appeals to authority, like your lawyer. What's interesting about this is it actually weakens your case. Your request should stand on its own without having to appeal to authority. And when you do appeal to authority, it sounds like you're being a little bit of a bully or that persecuted, that drama triangle and that's more likely to get a response that you're not going to like. You don't need to appeal to authority. 

And besides, if you want to talk about what your lawyer has told you, you're violating solicitor-client privilege. You're opening up a whole kind of worms. If you get it wrong, you potentially escalate the complute because now people are thinking that you're lying about what your lawyer said or your lawyer must be incompetent if they told you that, or who is the bigger idiot, you or your lawyer, etcetera, etcetera. We don't need to go into any of that. So, appeals to authority are not particularly helpful if you want to keep the conversation focused on positive outcomes. Similarly, you don't need evidence to support your case because it comes across as aggressive and argumentative. And really you're not making a case in front of a judge here. What you're doing is trying to convince somebody to make a decision based on your request. 

Going back to that the idea that you want the person to be able to think for themselves, that's a healthy attitude. They can think for themselves. They don't need you waving the evidence around in their face. Similarly, references to what has happened in the past. 

Well, the past is the past. If you stop referencing the past, you're more likely to get a positive outcome. And when you do reference what has happened in the past, what you're likely to do is trigger an argument about the past. And then you're often running on an argument about the past, the evidence, or like I said before, your lawyer must be an idiot for telling you that, etcetera, etcetera. 

All of those arguments have completely diverted the issue, which was, "I just wanted to pick up the kids early for this special program." "What do you have to say?" So you don't need to get into along song and a dance about it. The longer it is, the weaker your request looks because the person getting your request is going, my God, this must not be a very reasonable request that they've got to spend this much effort trying to buttress their argument, right. And really, really bad, don't put in any threats or don't even call them promises. That's just again, more bullying behaviour. I always say that the scariest thing in any event, is the thing that the person doesn't see coming and you don't need to put in the threats. I'm going to tell the judge that you're not being reasonable is, all it invites, is the person to say, okay, well, you try it, and now we're having a fight over who's going to win in court. Not a particularly productive kind of argument. 

It's better to have the person think, you know, this is a straightforward request. He's explained what it is that I need to know. He's not given any indication, there's no target here, there's nothing for me to attack and he's just asked me to give some comment or say yes or no. Now, if I don't respond to a reasonable request in a reasonable, balanced way, then I wonder what might happen to me. That's what the kind of thinking you want to induce in the other side. And as soon as you put that threat or promise in there, then you will get the other person think through the issues, based on a very straightforward, clean email. 

Obviously the next one is you avoid the insults of bad language, et cetera, because it really doesn't get anywhere. In fact, it's just like the rest of it, if you've got to resort to insults and bad language, it must not be a very reasonable request because otherwise you wouldn't feel the need for it. Similarly, whatever this communication is, you don't want it copied and stuck in an affidavit or put in front of a judge because it's just going to make you look bad more than the other person. 

I often say when I get, as lawyers, we sometimes have to deal with other lawyers that don't know these rules, which is interesting. Whenever I see another lawyer violating this stuff and making personal attacks on me, etcetera, etcetera, I just calm right down and I just think they must not have a very strong case if they have to resort to this kind of stuff. So if it works for me in terms of my work as a litigator, it certainly can work for you guys out there just trying to have a straightforward communication. So here's a little thought here. We should always act with compassion and respect. When you take responsibility for other's feelings, you surrender the possibility of both solving problems and connecting deeply. Hopefully, that's lots to think about. 

I think we've been chatting here for half an hour. There's the name of the book Vital Smarts. Oh, this is back to you, Tannis. 

Here's some things here. Okay, here's why. Yeah, we've got just a couple more quick things that I'll make it fast because I know that you're trying to move into the questions section here. 

So the first thing, we already kind of went over the taking time to breathe. So counting to five or ten before responding in written communication as well, like that text message example that you provided, maybe before sending any kind of text message to somebody, if you're feeling angry, instead of responding to them directly, it might be helpful instead to take some time and maybe write it down in a Word document or even in a journal or something. 

And then by the time you've taken time to write it down that way you can think, "Maybe I can say this a little bit better." I have a draft folder filled with draft emails that I have not pressed send on and afterwards I thought, you know, I'm really happy I didn't press send on that one. So that kind of goes in along with the next one. So being clear and calm rather than reacting in anger, so really taking that bonding if at all possible, it's not always possible, especially when you're sitting right before somebody. But yeah, basically using that calm and controlled voice, not speaking too loudly, not being reactive as much as possible, if the other person is behaving in that reactive manner, you don't want to fall into that. You want to try instead to model the kind of behavior you would like to see in them. So not only would that reflect on you, that would reflect well on you, but it can indeed bring the other person down to a state of calm. So if you have somebody lashing out and getting up in your face and you're just sitting there, you know, arms folded nicely, being like, "Okay, so how can we solve this problem?" They're going to feel mighty silly if they keep coming at you super-aggressive, right. So whenever you're talking, if possible and if relevant of course, it's always best to kind of use "I feel" language. So this helps to avoid looking like you're putting the blame on the other person. So for example, instead of saying, "You're making this way more difficult than it needs to be.", saying, "I feel that this is more difficult than it needs to be." or something like that. It avoids language that puts the other person on the defensive. So that's a good one to keep note of. 

And also with body language, you don't want to come on too strong, you don't want to be aggressive, making a lot of big gestures, avoid folding your arms or clenching your fists. So behaving in as much of a calm and controlled manner as possible, making gestures slowly. And as one final note, this does not mean acting meek or cowed, but just being confident and in control without being domineering. Yeah, and like going back to that winners triangle, the one in the top left I think was assertive. So don't mistake kindness for weakness. This is not being kind and in control of your emotions, et cetera, is not a sign of weakness or that you are going to be sacrificing something that you otherwise shouldn't be sacrificing. 

So, questions and answers. I don't know. Well, questions anyway. Hopefully, maybe we might not have answers. So there you go. 

Okay, so the first question we have is" In a high conflict situation, if we want to record the conversation, can we do it without informing the other party or person?" 

Okay, I guess I'll take this one. So really it depends when, here's what the problem is with recordings is if the other person doesn't know that you're recording, then you are going to be in control of how you are responding. And of course they don't know that you're recording. So you could push their buttons, so to speak, and then press the record button and you've caught them and they're all wound up and you come across looking as a saint because after all, you've got the recording going. 

The courts have mixed views on this and I have seen cases where parties have been castigated for engaging in circuitous recording of the other party. That being said, I've also been in court where a judge has actually said, "Well, if there's conflict between the parties during the exchanges, you can always record the exchanges." that was in provincial court with an experienced senior judge in the family court. I was actually surprised at that answer because I'm not convinced that it is a good idea. 

Now, what if you're doing the recording and the other person knows? Well, now you're just in their face and clearly that's an aggressive move because you are trying to get evidence against them. The other thing to remember is that you might be recording this interchange and that's really good. But what about the other interchange where you did lose control that you weren't recording or you did record it and realized we better not disclose that one or I better press delete on that one. So probably the only thing that you can may betake away from that is if you're recording, you're more likely to stay calm and behave yourself. And that's probably a positive thing. But I'm not convinced that in general, recording is a good idea, although in some situations it can be. In fact, I'm just dealing with a client recently where the recording is probably necessary in order to avoid the false accusations. It's important to be smart about how you do it and how you disclose it. I would really want to get legal advice as you go on that. Sorry for the long answer. 

Okay, this question is probably geared to Tannis. "How do you manage your tone delivery and body language when working through conflict? It can be very tricky." 

Okay, well, I mean, when working through conflict, a good thing is, especially before going into any meetings, what I would say is, first of all, try and have some kind of strategies that you can think of to kind of keep control of yourself in the moment. So, for example, one thing that was taught to me is if you're feeling nervous or out of control, like having some kind of physical reaction that you can turn to, to kind of keep control. Because when we are thinking about something, it's actually very difficult for the brain to truly multitask. We often think we're multitasking, but we're really not. So one of the suggestions they did was something very small, like in the moment where you could rub the back of your hand or you can pinch the underside of your hand if you're sitting with your hands like this on the table. 

Just something to kind of keep yourself grounded. Because a lot of the times when we're in a situation where we're talking to somebody and the conflict is high and we're really feeling out of control, having something to ground us and keep us in the moment is really important. So when we're kind of engaging in the physical touch that we're doing there, that can kind of help us to keep separated from the moment and keep us in our own heads rather than letting ourselves fly off the handling conflict. So that's one strategy. 

Another thing I would say is to be prepared beforehand as well. Go into meetings thinking about what it is that you would like to achieve, and talk to the other personas though you're trying to solve a problem. Like I had mentioned before, avoid any kind of personal attacks. You could even talk to the other person and say, I'm not trying to attack you, I just want to solve this problem together, that kind of thing, using that kind of collaborative language, even when they're being to your level. Otherwise, you're just sitting there trying to maintain your calm, and you have this person beeking off at you. And it probably really doesn't reflect very well on them, right. So those are just some general tips that I would suggest. There's a lot more we could go into, but it's kind of a big question. Yeah. I think just stopping and saying, "What is this other person actually saying?" or "What are they feeling?" or just ask a question, reorient to listening to what's going on with them. It doesn't mean that you're giving up anything. You're just listening. Yeah, absolutely. 

Okay, so next question. This is probably geared towards Charles. It's situational. "So my ex fits the profile of the constant victim. I have repeatedly asked to pick up the kids early each week to attend activities like Girl Guides. We are late every week because she refuses to allow me to pick up the kids even five minutes early. How do you respond when the other party always says no to your request? When does it turn into a harassment situation to repeatedly make this request week after week?" 

Well, I think repeatedly asking the question is probably not an effective strategy because what it says is that you're not listening. She said no. That doesn't necessarily mean that you haven't heard the no, but you haven't discovered the why behind the no. The one definition of crazy is if you keep doing the same thing and getting the same result, then that's the definition of crazy. So if you don't want to be crazy, you've got to try something different. And that's where you need to open up a communication where the other person feels safe to tell you what's really the concern. 

It may be, for example, that somebody is afraid that your request for a little bit earlier pickup is the proverbial camel's nose in the tent. And if they give an edge, then the next thing you know there's going to be, they're going to lose custody of their children and who knows what the fear is. Or maybe they're just wanting to be vindictive and just be mean about it. How do you know what that is? Or maybe they're itching for a fight and they're really upset with you because you're not actually fighting with them. So trying to figure out what's actually going on in the conflict is really important, I think. 

Yeah, absolutely. Because it's tough to say even if they are to roll in that situation, right. Like Charles said, you don't know if they're just trying to be difficult and make things hard on you, or they could be being the victim, or there might be legitimately some other reason why they're refusing to but yeah, trying to really communicate with them and say maybe, "What is the reason behind this?" "Can we work something out?" It's not always going to work, but that's really the best the best bet, I would say, to try and figure that out. One way to do it might be to to take a guess and say, "Are you worried that this is going to lead to more requests or something?" Or "Is there something that is", you have to say it in a safe and inviting way. You don't say something like, "Is there some reason why you can't do this?" It sounds a little on the aggressive side, but you could say, "Is there something that maybe I could help with so that we could get this happening? Because it might be because maybe it's better for the kids if we can get this to this program earlier." 

Okay. Sorry. So, next question. It's another situational one. "My ex-partner constantly contacts me, tries to push my buttons, provokes an emotional reaction from me that she could use in an ongoing court custody case. Lately, she uses the pretense of our son to get me into conflict-filled conversations. Can I tell her to back off? She may use this in court against me, as she would say. That when she approached me about our son's daycare, I told her to back off." 

Yeah, well, I can tell you that that strategy didn't work very well in that case that I mentioned. It was just decided this year. The dad in that case was threatening the mom with a defamation lawsuit if she didn't stop. So it sounds like you're trying to draw a line, but going back to what you started before, she's not the one in control of your buttons. And maybe Tannis is going to have some more comments about that. 

Yeah, so when I think about that kind of thing, I think about trying to kind of envision yourself as sort of a fortress, right. Like, if this person is constantly trying to push your buttons and you're just hopping right on that drama situation with them, right. It's easy to kind of lose yourself to uselessly throwing arrows at you, right. You can kind of envision it as this person is trying to make me back down or trying to weaken me, but I'm going to hold up, hold up and hold my ground. I would call this part of the assertive role on the winners triangle, right. I know I'm willing to work with you on this, but we have to come to a solution collaboratively, right. 

And then by holding that kind of self-assertive ground and having this vision of yourself as this wall that won't back down, and it can be a little bit easier to kind of envision that you're holding your strength in the face of somebody who's trying to throw pebbles at you. So it's not always easy. I know it's easy to say that from a place of distance, but as much as possible, trying to hold that sense of assertiveness, that sense of confidence, it can allow you to hold your ground and to try and assert your own needs and your own desires without falling into anger. One funny strategy that can use is you agree with the person about what it is, and you have to think about this carefully, but if you agree with the person's criticism and they keep criticizing you with the same thing over and over again, they start to realize that this is kind of fruitless because you haven't reacted to their button pushing. They say, "Oh, you never do this." You say, "You know, you're right. I never do that." "What do you have to say next?" "You never help with the dishes." "You're right. I don't help with the dishes. "Not only is that kind of a defanging strategy, but I mean, the best-case scenario, the other person winds up feeling a little bit more heard or something, and it's like they're able to vent and that their concerns are being maybe taken more seriously, and then they may be more willing to work with you on things, right. 

So a lot of times, these places of conflict, they're coming from places of hurt, right. So if you can kind of get them to a point where they feel like they're actually being heard or something like that, then that may wind up being a positive strategy for you as well. Yeah, it's like anything else. You don't really know why they're throwing those stones at you. So agree with them, and then they feel heard. You have to be careful about this. "You assaulted our son." 

Okay, so we've just got a couple more minutes left. We got a couple of questions to throw in here quick. "Are there any guidelines we should follow when dealing with women versus men in conflict? How do men and women differ in how they handle it?"

 I got to jump in here really quick here before Tannis says anything. Sure. I think these things are not gender-specific, so but Tannis might disagree with me on that. 

No, I was going to say I think it really depends on the person, because I have met both men and women that are prone to, like, big angry reactions, and I've also met men and women that are trying to be calm and reasonable about things, right. So I think it really more depends on the kind of person that you're dealing with. So if you're working with somebody that maybe has a bit of a history of being angry, then you can go into strategies or go into the conflict knowing that this is somebody who's going to be potentially angry and work accordingly with that. But I agree with Charles. I really don't think it's necessarily a gendered thing. I think it's more of an individual thing. Well, that's good. Thank you, Tannis. 

Okay, sounds great. Vanessa is going to pop on here. She's got a question she wanted to ask. 

Thanks, Melanie. So it's possible that I missed something when I was listening to the presentation. Charles, I was wondering about this three-sentence rule. So you said that you should keep your written communication to three sentences, sometimes four, and so you outlined the first three, and I don't recall you saying what that sometimes fourth sentence would be. 

Sometimes the information needed to make a decision on the request might require two sentences. Okay. Maybe even three. But the idea is you want to keep that section short, right. It's that middle part that often runs the risk of getting out of control. And by the time you've finished venting whatever it is you're going to vent in that sandwich, you may even have forgot to ask what it is that you want them to do at the end of it. So that's partly the -- Okay thank you very much. But great question. Thank you. I should have said that before. Okay, so we're up for time. So, Vanessa, did you want to wrap up? 

Thank you for the time that you've put into this presentation and all the presentations that you've done with us. And thank you very much Tannis, for joining us. You have a very valuable point of view that adds some great, some great information and also a lot of heart. I've long thought of you as the heart of CCMF Alberta. I'm just a big fan of Tannis, so this has been communication styles to avoid escalations with CCMF Alberta. And I'd like you to please, if you enjoyed this presentation, or if you didn't, because you're underway too much stress with your family situation, please visit our website at and read about our program offerings, including legal seminars like this one, and different peer support groups for men, domestic violence support and counselling, among other things. So please visit us and see what we can do to help you support your mental health. Thanks everyone for coming. Oh yes, and yes go ahead, Melanie, give us your spiel about Fair Legal just before we sign off. Yeah.

So if anybody wants to set up a discovery call, please feel free to visit our website at and we can get you set up with a free discovery call to see if there's something that we can help you with.