January 12, 2015

How to Talk

Categories: Collaborative LawDivorce

140196014There’s an old saying that goes: “because God gave you two ears and only one mouth, you should listen twice as much as you talk” which, as far as it goes, is fairly good advice for most situations and if listening is the hard part, talking should be simple, right?

Well, no. The problem is you’ve got two things to deal with: your emotions and the actual problem. It’s understood that divorce, even a Collaborative Divorce, comes with the mother load of emotions – anger, depression, relief, frustration, sorrow, etc. and it is all aimed at the person you need to negotiate with and that’s the worst time to start airing and rehashing old grievances (besides, if you can leave your emotions at the door and stay connected with your highest functioning self during negotiations you’ll get more accomplished for the least cost). So, accept that your emotions are a real thing that need to be dealt with but recognize that this needs to be addressed separately from the actual problems at hand.

So, if you are going to talk well, you need to start from the right mindset. Keep an open mind and a cool head; the more polite and calm you are, the more likely you are to have a conversation and find solutions. Its really hard to have a shouting match with someone if they refuse to join in. So remain calm, stay on topic and focus on finding solutions it will make your arguments turn out better – after all, simply diffusing the tension may be enough to resolve an issue; there are somethings that can be let go because they are just not important enough to argue over.

Now that your head is in the game, start the conversation off by telling your team what you want to talk about. Remember, you are going at this with a cool head and open mind, so leave the analysis, blame, interpretation and accusations at the door and describe the problem in specific and objective terms. Remember, keep your focus on problem solving. While “blame/your” statements (“your 100’s of bounced checks make me think you just can’t handle money”) may be cathartic, they’re really not all that productive. Try to replace the blame statements with statements that define the problem in terms  of how you are feeling -the intensity, the duration, the cause and the context. You do this through “I” statements (“I get concerned about the family’s finances when I see overdraft notices”).

Finally, remember that all you can do is to ask for a certain resolution or solution. Expecting or demanding your spouse to immediately change their values, desires, or feelings with out their conscious, active consent is about as effective as expecting them to get instantly taller. It is far better to work together on one or two problems at a time – even if it only results in a small step forward – than overwhelm your spouse with demands and have them shutdown. The fact is, the best foundation for your future will be based on small agreements consistently honored for they build trust.

Bruce Cameron
Attorney, Cameron Law, PLLC

Bruce Cameron, JD, MS is a second career attorney, practicing Quaker, and advocate for small town law practices. His solo practice focuses exclusively on collaborative law and mediation with just a soupçon of estate planning for excitement. Bruce believes that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, like collaborative law and mediation, are powerful positive means to reduce the destructive conflict typical of litigation. He has found that a little peacemaking tends to produce better outcomes for his clients. Learn more at www.CameronLawPllc.com

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