I read in last Saturday’s Guardian that thirteen people filed for Divorce on Christmas Day. Christmas Day can be tough for a lot of people, but that’s a hell of a way to spend the afternoon.

It’s my theory that these divorce petitions had little to do with wanting to end a marriage. They are more about hitting out from a place of pain; hurting someone who’s hurt you. And pretty effective, if that’s what you’re trying to do.

That need to wound someone who’s hurt you – it’s an animal instinct, we all recognise it. It’s our default reaction. It might give you a short-lived sense of relief, but we all know it’s not going to fix anything. The other person will probably hurt you back and then you’ll have to find another way to get at them. The pain doesn’t go away, it gets worse. The system that seems to be hard wired into us, doesn’t work.

There is another way to manage hurt. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication A language of Life is a wonderful instruction manual. Boiled down to four stages, it shows you a way to communicate with another person so they can hear and invites them to communicate with you in the same way. The four stages are:

  • Neutral non-judgemental observation
  • A statement of how you’re feeling
  • An expression of what needs you have that are or aren’t met
  • Sometimes followed up by a request.

Getting good at this language is an absolute life saver in tons of situations – with your kids, with your colleagues and with your spouse or partner. It might not work for the Christmas episode of EastEnders, but if you’d rather have resolution over drama, it’s my recommended reading for this year.