This article was published in the Chicago Now section of the Chicago Tribune (circa 2011) as part of the Kulerski & Cornelison “The Way We War” series of articles.

Anyone who has ever transacted business knows you must be nice to a customer if you wish to make a sale.  Being nasty to a customer is bad business.

When you’re in court, the judge is your customer – the one you must sell.  Unless you are new to this planet, you will do everything you can to be nice to the judge.

When you want an out-of-court settlement, your spouse is the customer – the one you must sell to.  It follows, therefore, that you should be nice to your spouse.  If you want to make deal, there are no buts.

Let’s face it.  If you don’t want a court battle (and you don’t use a gun, or you can’t hypnotize or lobotomize your partner, and you don’t want to waste a lot of time and money going to trial), what other means you do have of motivating them to agree to a settlement they don’t want to agree to?

This is where salesmanship comes in.  It’s all we have left.  If it didn’t work, salespeople would have given up on it centuries ago.

So, exactly how would a person go about acting nicely (if, hypothetically, a person were to actually consider doing so)?

This is easy to explain.  You must accept that one of you must be nice first, or the other one never will.  Unless you are willing to bet thousands of your dollars that this person will be your partner, it is up to you to break the downward spiral of conflict.  Then, you allow your spouse to vent without firing back.

You never fight back and you treat your spouse with respect.  Acting nicely simply requires you to do three things:

  1. Avoid aggravating your spouse.
  2. Listen to what your spouse says and convince them you heard every word they said.
  3. Be nice to your spouse even if they do not deserve it and be nice to them even if it kills you to do so.

You may be unwilling to do these things, and this is understandable.  Being nice in divorce flies in the face of what we know.  However, always keep in mind that divorce wars do not pay.  You do.

You can either buy yourself a new SUV, or you can buy one for your lawyer.  This is one part of the divorce process that is your choice.  You cannot control the judge, the other lawyer, or the system, but you can control how you act.  Acting nicely pay dividends.

You don’t act nicely for them; you do it because it helps you get what you want.  You do it to avoid a long, bad, ugly, divisive, and expensive divorce.

Being nice does not mean being weak; it means being smart.  It gives you the best shot you have of beating the legal system.

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Kari and Richard are staunch advocates of the non-court approach to divorce, and are also active and seasoned litigators with over 80 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook and DuPage counties.