You’re a slob! And you’re an ice queen!
Most of us find that our common sense, verbal skills, and general savvy (which have served us well in other parts of our lives) are not effective when we are discussing a divorce settlement with our soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Divorce brings out the worst in us, and it happens at a time when we must be at our best (if we hope to avoid a costly and painful court experience).
The following professional negotiation insights and tips highlight some things that will help you to be at your best:
- Do not challenge or insult your partner or anything they say. Sentences such as “How can you just sit there and lie?” or “Maybe if I ever came home and found dinner on the table” will only bring you closer to an expensive and damaging divorce war.
- Avoid displaying a “you owe me” attitude or making any statements that depict you as a victim. For example, don’t say things like, “I’ve given you my best years, and now, because of you and your tootsie, I’m probably going to end up being a bag lady.”
- Never get confrontational. Forget saying things like, “That’s not what happened, and you know it,” or “Maybe you should have thought of that before you…” or “I’ll go to jail first before I …? or “Why are you doing this to me,” or “Don’t get all emotional on me.”
Instead, say things like, “Tell me more,” or “Please help me here; I’m trying to understand.”
- Avoid making any negative remarks about your partner’s shortcomings, vices, traits, propensities, habits, work tendencies, appearance, grooming, general behavior, and so on.
- While it is impossible to keep anger out of divorce, it is not impossible to learn how to control it. Recognize the need to create lag time before responding when your spouse presses your buttons.
Simply wait three seconds before responding. Focus only on the passing of the three seconds, and the wave of anger should lessen.
- Do not attack your spouse. Instead, try to attack the problem with your spouse. For example, say: “The problem really isn’t because of you or me. It is because there isn’t enough money to go around. What do you say we put our minds together to see how we can make the shoe fit?”
- There is no back pay in divorce, so it doesn’t do any good to transmit that you deserve some extra consideration because of past deeds. Things like working a lot of overtime or two jobs, cooking, cleaning, supporting the other’s career, etc., simply do not count in these discussions.
- Refrain from telling your spouse what their position should be. Do not say things like, “Here’s what I think you should do,” or “Everyone knows that’s a dumb choice.” Sentences like these make you sound like you have all the answers, and they put your partner on the defensive. Defensive people do not settle cases – they fight.
- Avoid imposing your values on your spouse with statements like, “A decent person wouldn’t do what you did” or “Maybe the children should know that their mother/father has no morals.”
- Do not expect sympathy from your spouse. They expect to get sympathy from you, not the other way around.