How to Talk and Listen Effectively in Mediation
In divorce litigation, your lawyer does a lot of the talking for you. The problem is that a lot of the lawyer’s talking is geared toward gaining an advantage in the case, in terms of support, property division, parenting time or another aspect of divorce. This adversarial atmosphere may not be conducive to working out agreements on contested issues.
When you decide to resolve your divorce using the out-of-court method of mediation, you are much more personally involved. While you may be represented by an attorney, you and your spouse will be talking and listening, with the conversation being kept on track by a mediator who doesn’t take sides. The mediator will be listening, too, and offering suggestions to help the two of you resolve your differences.
Talking and listening sound easy but can often be a challenge in divorce mediation. Fortunately, there are a few communication skills you can learn and use to make the process more effective.
First, active listening is key. Some research shows that we may not listen to as much as 90 percent of what is said to us in ordinary conversations. Active listening means that you’re fully concentrating on what is being said, not just “hearing” it. When you listen actively, the speaker can tell. Your engagement shows in your body language, which makes the speaker feel more comfortable. In a divorce mediation, if your spouse is speaking and can see that you’re nodding your head, keeping good posture or otherwise reacting positively, they will be encouraged to keep negotiations going.
Another technique is to avoid putting up communication barriers between you and your spouse. Using accusatory phrases like “you did that” or “I told you so” can cause the other person to shut down or get agitated, which undermines the mediation session. Avoid these barriers by not assigning blame and instead focusing on what you want to achieve in the divorce.
Finally, don’t use emotion as a weapon or as a shield. Emotion plays a part in how you speak during mediation but it plays an equal part in how your spouse interprets what you’re saying. If you understand that both of you are going through a tough time, you’ll gain a level of understanding and empathy Then, your mediator can guide the discussion in ways that don’t push either of you too far emotionally.
At Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc., our Long Island team helps people in Suffolk and Nassau counties resolve divorce issues without litigation. Call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact us online for a free consultation.