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Jun 22, 2017BY:
IN: Communication in Divorce

Communication: What Did We Learn From The Comey Hearings?


   On June 8, 2017, former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Many of the senators’ questions addressed the communications between the President and Director Comey regarding the investigation into former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

Senator James Risch asked Director Comey the following:

“I – I want to drill down, as my time is limited, to the most recent dust-up regarding the most recent allegations that the President obstructed justice and boy you nailed this down on page 5 paragraph 3 [Comey’s memo]. You put in quotes – words matter. You wrote down the words so we all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words there that are in quotes, and it says, ‘I hope’ – this is the President speaking – ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.  He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ ”

Senator Risch then continued his questioning to make the point that stating the words “I hope”, the President did not direct Director Comey to end the Flynn investigation.

In response to this line of questioning Director Comey stated:

“I mean, this is the President of the United States, with me alone saying ‘I hope’ this.  I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”

Although words do matter other factors so do so as well.

Clearly Director Comey who experienced the setting, facial expressions and tone of the President’s voice had a much different interpretation of the words “I hope” than Senator Risch did reading them from Director Comey’s memo.

In a major study conducted by Professor Albert Mehrabian, he found that 7% of communication relates to words, 38% pertains to the way words are spoken and 55% relates to facial expressions.[i]

If much of our communication is conveyed through facial expressions and the tone, sound and volume of our voice, it follows that in working to resolve emotionally charged conflict, it is critical to communicate in person.

In divorce litigation, much of the communication is relayed in writing via affidavit, correspondence and other documents written by the lawyers on behalf of their divorcing clients.  It is customary for many lawyers to advise their clients not to communicate directly with each other about the dispute, rather through their lawyers.

In collaborative practice, a proven process utilized to resolve divorce and other conflicts, problem solving and negotiations are conducted in person and the spouses are encouraged to communicate directly with each other.  Divorcing couples face issues as to the best interests of the children, parenting time, financial resources, financial security, and living arrangements. In the collaborative process, collaboratively trained attorneys, neutral financial and mental health professionals facilitate negotiations and problem solving with the spouses in the same room. This insures that they truly understand each other resulting in more effective, durable resolutions.

[i] Mehrabian, A. (1981) Silent messages: Implicit communication of emotions and attitudes. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth (currently distributed by Albert Mehrabian, email:

The author, Anthony C. Markus, is a member of Northern Westchester Collaborative Divorce Professionals which is an association of lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals specializing in the collaborative divorce process. If you have questions about collaborative divorce and how this alternative to courtroom litigation can work for you, please contact Anthony C. Markus. Contact information can be found by clicking/tapping the author image or the "View Profile" link on this page.


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