At work, in your neighborhood, and in your family, you may from time to time run into a dispute that matters. You may want to negotiate with the other party about solving the problem. My work consists of facilitating negotiations, so here are a few final tips.
16. Start with the easier issues.
If you have several things that you need to decide, rate how easy each of you thinks each issue will be. Compare lists, and start wth the issues that both of you think will be easy. For example, suppose you are deciding which parent your kids will spend each holiday with. For many families, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are obvious and easy. Maybe only one parent cares about the 4th of July, so that becomes easy, too. Maybe only one parent cares about certain religious holidays. When you have reached agreements about some easy questions, the next set of questions becomes less difficult. Both of you are already on a roll. Christmas or Yom Kipper or Eid Al-Fitr may still be difficult to plan, but it may be easier than it would have been if you had tried to settle that question first.
17. Say what you want, then wait.
Some people process ideas thoroughly and choose their words carefully before replying. If you say what you want, wait five seconds, and then start trying to persuade the other person to accept your proposal, you weaken your position. If you wait for a reply, you are likely to get information about how the other party sees the pros and cons of your proposal.
A word of warning: This works if you are with a mediator during a time scheduled for negotiating. If you are in a different setting, you may have the problem I sometimes have with my very wonderful husband. After waiting for a minute or two, I must sometimes ask him whether he is still thinking about my suggestion. Sometimes his mind wanders off to some other interesting question.
18. Try a short-term, experimental agreement.
If you and the other party cannot agree on a long-term plan, can you agree to try one person’s idea for a month, then try the other person’s idea for a month, and then meet to discuss what worked well and what didn’t work well about each approach? The time frame (one month? six months?) that is most appropriate will vary with the specifics of each individual situation. In some cases, it may be best to try just one proposal and then meet to evaluate how it went. Every case is different.
I have worked with many parents who had very different ideas about what visitation schedule would be best for their child in the long run. Agreeing to try one schedule for a month or two gave them a chance to gather data about how the plan affected their child and each of them. For one pair of parents with a 10-year-old, it turned out that rush hour traffic created such huge problems that seeing the child for dinner two evenings each week just added stress to the visiting parent’s life, the child’s life, and their parent-child relationship. Fewer visits in the middle of the week and more Monday holidays for the noncustodial parent worked much better. For another pair of parents, whose kids were ages 3 and 5, the value of frequent contact between parent and children far outweighed the inconvenience of coping with rush hour traffic.
19. Hire help.
If you and the other person (spouse, ex, landlord, business associate, neighbor, or other party) can negotiate successfully across a table in a sandwich shop, that’s great. If not, hire a professional, certified mediator to help you stay focused and make progress in your negotiations. Mediators have different types and amounts of training and experience and charge diferent fees. A little internet research and some phone calls should make it possible for you find a mediator who is right for you.
This article is for informational purposes only. The author is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Supreme Court of Virginia. Additional information is available at httpfairfaxmediator.com.