Separation leads to conflict - there is no way around it. In any separation, opposing parties have different wants and interests. They both feel they are entitled to certain things. The ultimate goal is getting resolution, and ending the conflict. The attorney’s role in separation is helping a party achieve resolution with favorable results. This is not always easy, and it is rare for either party to get exactly what they are seeking. Finding middle ground, and compromise is often key to reaching resolution. The mediator's role is facilitating the conversation and negotiations that lead to agreement and resolution. The important thing is understanding what you are likely entitled to, and what you are asking for – seeking more than you would likely end up with is a recipe for disappointment as you will feel like you are losing with every compromise.
Traditional negotiation strategies focus on four basic tenets:
Traditional negotiation strategy is a very logical, rational way to jointly achieving conflict resolution. This approach is a problem-solving method that places a systematic emphasis on reaching an agreement. The problem is traditional, logical, rational negotiation strategy is not very effective – in practice it rarely works.
While traditional negotiation strategy is appealing to academics, they are objectively removed from the emotions that exist at a negotiation table. This approach makes the assumption that people are not animalistic, unreliable, and irrational beings. It is not easy, for example, to place objective value on time with your children, dividing the belongings in your home you have shared with your family, or paying support to the ex-spouse that cheated on you. Instead of rational thought, emotions come into play, which make it nearly impossible to not be concerned about the other side’s position. It is very clear – emotionally driven negotiations cannot be approached with rational bargaining methods.
So what is the solution to successful negotiation? How do I get the outcome I want and need from my own divorce? To begin with, emphasis must be removed from quid pro quo bargaining and problem solving. Instead, emotions, and learning to use them to your benefit, are central to effective negotiation. Emphasis needs to be placed on calming people down, establishing rapport, gaining trust, expressing the needs of your position, and empathetic persuasion. Ask questions like “What are you going through?” “How does that make you feel?” and “How am I supposed to do that?” Introducing emotion into a rational mindset can modify response. Emotions and instincts are much more powerful than logic and can influence rational thought. Changing the behavior and shifting the emotional environment of the other party can help you obtain the outcome you need.
So before you attempt to negotiate your separation, consider not just what makes sense logically in determining how to divide assets and debts, paying or receiving support, and a child custody arrangement that works best for all parties, but discuss what emotional triggers and desire the other party has – try to figure out what they are really interested in and want they really want. Use that as leverage to get what you really want and need - use that as leverage to orchestrate a plan that works best for everyone involved.
Conflict is often the path to great deals, and at some point every negotiation gets down to old-fashioned haggling. The important thing to remember is that to successfully negotiate, you have to be prepared – and that means better knowing and understanding the rational and emotional aspects of the other party.
To learn more about negotiation techniques and strategy, consider reading and reviewing the following books:
Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury
Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People, William Ury
Bargaining For Advantage, Richard Shell
Beyond Winning, Robert Mnookin
Start With NO, Jim Camp
No: The Only Negotiating System You’ll Ever Need, Jim Camp
Making Money Talk: How To Mediate Insured Claims And Other Monetary Disputes, J. Anderson Little
Wired For Conflict, Sondra S. Vansant
Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss
Getting Ready To Negotiate, Roger Fisher and Danny Ertel
Getting Together: Building Relationships As We Negotiate, Roger Fisher
You Just Don’t Understand, Deborah Tannen
Talking From 9 To 5, Deborah Tannen
In A Different Voice, Carol Gilligan
Games People Play, Eric Berne
The Magic Of Rapport, Jerry Richardson
The Human Factor At Work, Eric Oliver
Influencing With Integrity, Genie Z. Laborde
Control Theory, William Glasser
Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way To Influence And Persuade, Robert Cialdini
Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
If you are interested in learning more about mediation, and the mediation process, please contact Family Mediation LLC! We are located in Huntersville NC, and glad to offer a complimentary consultation to see if we may be of service to you.