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San Diego Family Mediation Center

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Guest Post: Sometimes It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Divorce mediator in Carmel Valley

This is a guest post by CivilCommunicator. The original Post can be found here.

Discussions about how best to communicate tone through non-verbal methods have been going on since back in 1837 when the telegram was first invented.

When there’s no tone of voice or body language to be analyzed – how can the meaning of words be properly judged?

Techniques for developing tone and showing meaning through electronic communication have evolved over time. From using standard punctuation through to libraries of emojis, there are more ways than ever to capture the essence of what we’re trying to communicate without using verbal cues.

The opportunity to create negative sentiment without raising our voices is something we all see daily through various arguments that arise on social media. And there are many ways of making our negative feelings known. From iMessages, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter – it’s all too easy to press send before considering what the effect of a message may be.

If non-verbal communication can cause big issues in everyday life, then in a high-conflict situation it can make things ten times worse. That’s why here at Civil Communicator we believe that having a monitored communication tool is one of the most important parts of separation proceedings and shared parenting situations.

The different ways to monitor communication.

Thanks to technology, you now have many different options when it comes to deciding how you want your communication to be monitored.

You could choose to go down the route of AI (artificial intelligence) monitoring This is where communication tools rely on machine learning to analyze messages and decide whether the content is okay to be sent or whether it needs to be rejected.  To do this the program will look into its ‘bank’ of acceptable and non-acceptable language that’s been set up in advance.

While this can do a great job of quickly filtering out swear words and other nasty language – it falls down when it comes to that all important tone element.

Or, you could choose to go for a human monitoring solution. This, as the name suggests, is where an independent third-party reads all communications and decides on whether the content is appropriate to be sent.

What AI can’t do.

Artificial intelligence has come on massively in the last few years – and it’s used in a huge number of ways to make our daily lives easier. But, we have to be careful that we don’t become too reliant on technology and assume it’s better than human interaction in every situation.

From high profile failings of automated vehicles to a much lighter example of an AI trying and failing terribly to write an advertisement for Olive Garden there are numerous examples of machines not being able to understand and properly articulate the human language.

It’s the same reason that many people struggle to learn a new language – understanding the principles of how language and communication works doesn’t mean you can always apply it to real life. We don’t communicate in logical ways especially in tense situations – our rationality goes out of the window along with our ability to clearly communicate our point of view.

Because AI is born from (and completely routed in) logic, it cannot pick up nuances of human language that we transfer through to e-communication through emojis and punctuation.

For example, a smiley face seems to be a positive signal, so a machine will have it stored in its ‘good’ bank and will give a message containing it a green light. But, a smiley face used in certain situations (like after a negative comment) can signify something else entirely.

The machine doesn’t have the capacity to analyze the use of the smiley face in relation to the rest of the message. So, a message could be let through its filters even though it’s inflammatory and may cause an argument.

The benefits of a human eye.

A human referee, on the other hand, can understand any passive aggression or subtle tonal changes inferred by the use of punctuation or emojis. For example, they can know the difference between capital letters being used as correct punctuation or to shout and force a point.

They can then provide feedback if they deem messages to be inappropriate in a clear and comprehensive way. Rather than a ‘computer says no’ automated rejection – there’s a possibility for education that a machine can’t provide.

Our review specialists are trained in high-conflict communication and will have an innate understanding of whether or not certain messages are going to help or hinder progress when it comes to shared parenting.

As humans, we naturally modify our behavior if we believe someone else to be observing us (whether physically or digitally). This phenomenon is called the Hawthorne effect and has been documented many times.

So, knowing that a specialist will be reading any attempted communication between you and your ex-partner will also make you stop and think before pressing send.

Making a stressful situation easier for all.

Parenting can be stressful and fraught with tension at the best of times. Add into the mix a divorce and trying to navigate joint custody and it can be all too easy to write a message from a place of stress that doesn’t put across the point you want it to.

And, when dealing with a situation as difficult as a divorce even one badly timed negative message could set progress back weeks or even months.

It’s why we’re so passionate about our monitored communication tool because we know just how important it is to keep making positive progress in divorce proceedings and to reduce the risk of high-conflict situations occurring.