June 6, 2014

Listening – One of Your Best Negotiation Tools

Categories: Divorce

182860207When we are in a disagreement, listening to the other person can be difficult.  For whatever reason, be it cultural or otherwise, our natural instinct is to spend all our energy talking and “convincing” instead of genuinely listening to the other person.  However, if we take the time to truly listen and hear what the other person is saying, we may find that our perspectives are not as far apart as initially thought or that there are many terms on which we agree, narrowing the disagreement “gap.” In the context of divorce and reaching needed agreements, this can be especially true.

In the book The Lost Art of Listening, author Michael Nichols gives numerous tips to enhance listening skills.  One technique, which may resonate with divorcing couples, is “responsive listening.”  This tool was designed to turn arguments into discussions and calls for 5 steps:

  • First, at the first sign of an argument, check your impulse to argue and instead concentrate on listening to the other person’s side of the story.
  • Second, invite the other person’s thoughts, feelings and wishes, without defending or disagreeing.
  • Third, repeat the other person’s position in your own words to show what you think he or she is thinking or feeling.
  • Fourth, ask the other person to correct your impression or elaborate on his or her point of view.
  • Fifth, reserve your own response until later. On important or contentious issues, wait a day or so before giving your side of the issue. On minor matters, pause and ask if the other person would be willing to hear what you think.

As Nichols aptly writes “Arguments are like ping-pong games: It takes two to keep them going.”

Elizabeth I. WrobelABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Wrobel

Elizabeth Wrobel, JD is a partner with Wrobel & Smith, PLLP. She practices in the areas of collaborative family law and health insurance disputes. Although Elizabeth’s legal roots are in government practice, she now enjoys working directly with real people and their real-life challenges. Elizabeth’s passion for helping families is met in her collaborative law practice where she can use creative problem solving to assist families through the challenges of transition. Elizabeth understands that conflict can be expected, but how the professionals respond and guide a couple through divorce is critical in minimizing the harm.

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