Many clients think they are savvy negotiators, but they often fail to understand how their behaviors and attitudes towards each other throughout any divorce process effects the end result. What you and I see as common-sense negotiation tactics, are anything but that to our highly agitated divorce clients.
We have all seen the Wife make digs at the unfaithful husband continuously throughout the divorce case. While such disparagement likely makes the wife feel a bit satisfied for a few moments, she rarely understands the long-term consequences of such comments.
The same can be said when Fathers make comments towards Mothers about child support going towards nails or hair instead of the children. While this may make the father feel vindicated for a moment, it does not do much for the mother who then insists that Father not get a minute of extra time with their children.
And, since communication is 80% NONVERBAL, then remind your client that eye rolling, crossing their arms, and glaring are all types of communication that can show as much disdain as the spoken word.
Oftentimes an unfaithful spouse will feel guilty or feel shame for their behavior. It is also during these times of guilt or shame that that spouse may be the most generous. Likewise, a spouse who feels supported or who feels like the other side is respecting them, may agree to something they originally refused simply because the other side was kind or respectful. A compliment such as: “She is a great mom, and the kids need her” is likely to get better results than: “She is always on her phone and never pays attention to them anyway.”
Those insults and contempt directed at the party with whom the maker of the comments is negotiating will likely quickly lead to the insulted party (whether true or not) becoming angry. And any angry party is more apt to respond in kind than to be generous or considerate.
Because examples and storytelling are so important in helping people remember what you tell them, think of a story or even a well-known movie that conveys this same message. Perhaps Beauty and the Beast is a good example. Belle is kind to the Beast, and it pays off in the end. Think of the Grinch and how his heart grew when he experienced kindness. Maybe Forest Gump? What is it that resonates with your client? Is it their religion? Were they a Boy Scout? Or perhaps you get your client a picture of an iron, a wallet, and a pot of honey with flies.
Regardless of what speaks to your client, reminding them of the Golden Rule should help as well. Be sure to advise your client to strike while the iron is hot. And a smart client will also understand that snide, cutting comments directed at their spouse will only make the wallet shut. Remind your client that they will catch more flies with honey. And Remember: