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Sane Divorce is about Salesmanship, not War

Posted: 08/17/11 04:29 PM ET

Most people do not want their divorce to be nasty. Why would they? No one aspires to spend money on lawyers or put themselves through the legendary rigmarole of the court system.

The best way to prevent the divorce legal system from adding another layer of complexity to your divorce experience is to keep your case out of court. This means resolving your differences with your soon-to-be ex before litigation becomes necessary.

While this is easier said than done, it is not always as difficult as we, as a society, are prone to make it. All we have to do is persuade our spouse to agree to our settlement terms.

Is this a tall order? You bet it is, especially if we continue to behave as we have in the past. Our traditional, confrontational approach to one-on-one spousal settlement negotiations does not work, and we have a century of divorce wars to prove that it doesn't.

Society has filled our lives with rules on how we should behave in virtually every aspect of our existence, except for divorce. Until now, no one has ever told us how we should act during divorce, and the result has been devastating.

However, the advent and development of mediation and the collaborative approach to divorce have brought to light a new way of getting the job done, and it has to do with salesmanship.
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 for 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 act nicely toward your spouse.

Let's face it. If you don't want an expensive court battle (and you don't use a gun or you don't hypnotize or lobotomize your partner), what other means do you 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.

The following are some professional negotiation insights into what it takes to get through to your spouse during your divorce settlement conversations.

• Understand that your spouse will always see things differently than you do. It is as impossible to change their mind as it is for them to change yours, so don't annoy them by trying. Divorces get settled by working around the other side's thinking, not by challenging it.

• The best way to work around your partner's thinking is by listening to their concerns and showing respect for what they say. Your partner will not agree to a settlement until they know that they have been heard, and that you have validated their right to see things as they do.

• Do not try to convince your soon-to-be ex of the righteousness of your position. Instead, listen to why they think their position is the correct one.

• Listening shows that you are persuadable and you cannot be persuasive until you first convince them that you can be persuaded.

• Listen more than you speak.

• Repeat their words back to them. This signifies that you are making room in your mind to accommodate their viewpoint.

• Don't argue with them. No one has ever won an argument by arguing. Arguing only makes them angry and angry people do not want to compromise.

• Recognize that someone has to be the first to act civilly or a sensible settlement is never going to happen. Don't rely on your partner to be this person.

• Always wait until it is your turn to speak. Never, ever interrupt them.

• Wait until things are calm before you express your disagreement, and then proceed with the utmost diplomacy.

• Be patient. It takes time to settle a divorce case. It is not meant to happen in one sitting.

• Do not react negatively when your spouse rejects your proposal. There are usually a few NO'S before you can reasonably expect a YES.

• Do not say no too quickly. Wait three seconds before responding because this shows that you have given appropriate consideration to their proposal.

Why should we consider the salesmanship approach? We do it to save our mental stability, our money, and we do it for the welfare of our children.
Keep in the back of your mind that divorce settlement conversations are not about who is right or wrong, they are about your money and not throwing it away.

Sane divorce is about salesmanship, not war. Besides, divorce wars don't pay, we do.