Contributed by Kelly D. Thames, Attorney & Counselor at Law
I read a great article today on Huffington Post Divorce from fellow Chicago Family Law attorneys addressing negotiating skills for parties to a divorce, How to Sell Your Spouse on a Divorce Settlement by J. Richard Kulerski and Kari L. Cornelison. Lawyers often take negotiation and/or mediation skills classes in law school, but spouses preparing for a divorce are often not prepared with this set of tools.
Courts in Illinois will generally refer parties to mediation if there are minor children involved, which require negotiation with your spouse. Even if there aren’t minor children involved with issues of child custody and visitation, and which are resolved in a joint parenting agreement, there are often issues of property division and other issues that comprise a marital settlement agreement. Often times, especially if parties cannot successfully negotiate in mediation, this is done through your respective attorneys. However, if you can master the following skills, you may be able to cover significant ground in mediation.
I have previously blogged about separating the emotional aspect of divorce from the legal aspect of divorce. If you have been to marital counseling before considering divorce, some of these tips might sound familiar. There are ways of addressing your spouse that makes them feel like you are listening to them and that you care about their wants and needs. If your spouse feels like you don’t care about them in the settlement, they may be less likely to come to an agreement. If you don’t come to an agreement outside court, court costs can make your divorce exponentially more expensive. Again, attorneys can handle these issues without direct contact between the parties, but this is a way of keeping costs lower in a divorce.
The insights from these attorneys, which follow some basic negotiation techniques:
- Tread softly at beginning of your talks. A non-confrontational start is vital to your overall chances of settlement. Proceed at your partner’s pace, not yours.
- Use a comforting tone of voice. This transmits sincerity and good will.
- Give your partner ample opportunity to state their case. Never interrupt them and always wait three seconds before responding.
- Allow your spouse to speak more than you do. Act as though you are there to learn, not to teach.
- Assume a listening position. Sit up straight on the edge of the chair, lean forward, and maintain eye contact. Do not cross your arms or legs and be sure your face does not register disapproval of what your partner is saying.
- Display keen interest in their concerns. Never say what you think is fair; they only care about what they think is fair.
- Show that you want to understand your spouse’s position by asking supporting questions. When they say something of great concern to them, repeat it back slowly while maintaining their point of view. Use a tone of voice that transmits genuine curiosity about where they’re coming from.
- Acknowledge their point of view as being worth consideration. They need to know that you validate their right to think as they do.
- Understand that you cannot be persuasive unless you first show that you are persuadable.
- Expect your spouse to say something to anger you and do not get angry back. If you anticipate their anger, it will not get to you. Angry people are unable to compromise; and anger never sells anyone on anything. When they blow their top, do not defend yourself and be careful of your first reaction. Deliver a non-offensive response by saying, “I see that you are upset.” This subtly acknowledges their anger without judging them for feeling the way they do.
- Flinch or wince with mild surprise when they make a major proposal. They are watching for your reaction, and a facial grimace shows you won’t accept what they are offering. This politely indicates your disapproval without starting an argument. A flinch usually softens their thinking.
- Never say no too quickly. If you want your spouse to give serious thought to what you want, you have to appear to give serious thought to what they want.
- Resist saying yes to a first offer even if you think it’s a good deal. You do not want your spouse to think they offered too much.
- Do not start at your bottom line. Inexperienced negotiators feel more comfortable doing so, but try to resist this natural temptation. It leads to deadlock, and deadlock leads to a court battle.
- Expect your spouse to say no to your first proposal and don’t carry on when you hear it. A no is rarely final and usually serves to mark the real starting point of the negotiations.
- Don’t belittle your spouse’s offer. Validate it as a possibility, explain why you disagree, and ask for their assistance in coming up with something that you both might find acceptable.
- Do not make the first concession. It will not be appreciated and can lead to expectations of further concessions.
For the entire article, follow this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/j-richard-kulerski/how-to-sell-your-spouse-o_b_1033579.html?ref=divorce
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